Freedom soars: Crew-4 astronauts launch to Space Station

In a beautiful early-morning liftoff, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 sent Dragon Freedom with four Crew-4 astronauts into space for a multi-month mission aboard the International Space Station.

 

Liftoff occurred at 3:52 a.m. EDT (07:52 UTC) April 27, 2022, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This was the first flight of SpaceX’s fourth Crew Dragon spacecraft, which has been named “Freedom.”

The Crew-4 astronauts walk out of the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center before boarding two Tesla Model X electric vehicles. They rode those vehicles to Launch Complex 39A to board the Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket. Credit: Theresa Cross / Spaceflight Insider

 

The Crew-4 astronauts walk out of the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center before boarding two Tesla Model X electric vehicles. They rode those vehicles to Launch Complex 39A to board the Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket. Credit: Theresa Cross / Spaceflight Insider

The four aboard Freedom — NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines, and Jessica Watkins, and European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti — are planning to spend five months aboard the International Space Station executing scientific research on the floating laboratory while in low Earth orbit.

This will be the first spaceflight for Hines and Watkins and the second flight for Lindgren and Cristoforetti.

Also making their way to the orbiting laboratory via the SpaceX Freedom Dragon capsule are several science investigations.

One of these experiments will look into artificial retinas. According to NASA, the layering process of the protein-based implant may work better in microgravity.

There is also an investigation by ESA to demonstrate “a flexible and adaptable” wireless network infrastructure to support low-power, low-weight and wireless experiments.

Additionally, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency sponsored a student-driven creation of programs to control an “Astrobee”, one of the ISS free-flying robots aboard the outpost.

Another investigation called XROOTS is planning to look into how to grow food off Earth, emphasizing hydroponic and aeroponic techniques. This could enable production of crops on a larger scale for future space exploration and help the cultivation of plants on Earth in terrestrial settings such as greenhouses, lending more security for food on our planet for humans.

Finally, there is also the rHEALTH demonstration to test a modified off-the-shelf device for diagnostics that can analyze cell characteristics to help identify health disorders. This could provide cost-effective, reliable tests for patients on Earth as well as accurate functions off Earth in space.

Crew-4 is slated to dock with the International Space Station later today at 8:15 p.m. EDT April 27 (00:15 UTC April 28). They’ll join the in-progress seven-person Expedition 67 crew, which includes NASA astronauts Tom Marshburn, Raja Chari and Kayla Barron, ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov.

After about a week, Marshburn, Chari, Barron and Maurer will return to Earth in their Crew-3 Dragon spacecraft. They have been in orbit since November 2021.

Credit: Theresa Cross / Spaceflight Insider

 

Credit: Theresa Cross / Spaceflight Insider

Video courtesy of NASA

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