Nasa and Elon Musk's SpaceX to blast off crew to ISS

Crew-7 is set to be 7th routine mission to orbital platform for Elon Musk's SpaceX, with first coming in 2020

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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket drives past next to the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center on August 24, 2023, in Cape Canaveral, Florida. — AFP
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket drives past next to the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center on August 24, 2023, in Cape Canaveral, Florida. — AFP

US space agency Nasa and Elon Musk's SpaceX are making preparations to blast off a four-member crew to the International Space Station Friday, as the astronauts are excited for their mission ahead.

The Crew-7 will be under the command of the US Jasmin Moghbeli. It includes Andreas Mogensen of Denmark, Satoshi Furukawa of Japan and Konstantin Borisov of Russia.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is to lift off from Launch Complex 39A at Nasa's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 3:50am (0750 GMT) with a backup opportunity at 3:27am Saturday.

This mission will be the first for both Moghbeli and Borisov.

Moghbeli, who is a Naval test pilot, said last month: "This is something I've wanted to do for as long as I can remember."

"One of the things I'm most excited about is looking back at our beautiful planet," the 40-year-old.

"Everyone who I've talked to who has flown already has said that was a life-changing perspective — and also floating around in space, it seems really fun."

Crew-7 is set to be the seventh routine mission to the orbital platform for Elon Musk's SpaceX, with the first coming in 2020.

Nasa pays SpaceX for the taxi service as part of a commercial crew program that it put in place to reduce dependency on Russian rockets for astronaut transport after the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon spacecraft is prepared to launch the Crew-7 mission from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center on August 24, 2023, in Cape Canaveral, Florida. — AFP
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon spacecraft is prepared to launch the Crew-7 mission from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center on August 24, 2023, in Cape Canaveral, Florida. — AFP

Boeing is the other contracted private partner, but its program remains mired in delays and technical difficulties and it hasn't yet flown any crew.

Borisov will be the third Russian to fly on a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, fixed atop a Falcon 9 rocket.

Space remains a rare area of cooperation between the US and Russia despite the invasion of Ukraine, with Americans also continuing to fly aboard Russian Soyuz rockets that launch from Kazakhstan.

The crew will spend six months aboard the ISS, where they will carry out science experiments including collecting samples during a spacewalk to determine whether the station releases microorganisms through life support system vents.

The goal is to understand if microorganisms can survive and reproduce in space.

Another experiment will aim to assess the physiological differences between sleep on Earth and in space.

"I'm looking forward to coping with all the tasks. This is a very interesting profession: you are preparing for something that you haven't tried yet, and you really want to do it well," said Borisov.

Crew-7 will join the seven people already aboard the ISS before members of Crew-6 leave for Earth a few days later.

The first segment of the ISS was launched in 1998, and it has been continuously inhabited by an international crew since 2001.

Its operations are set to continue until at least 2030, after which it will be decommissioned and crash into the ocean. Several private companies are working on commercial space stations to replace it.