NASA just approved the SpaceX Crew-2 launch: Date and Details

NASA has given the green-light for the SpaceX Crew-2 mission to launch in a week's time, it's been confirmed, with four astronauts after headed out to the International Space Station. The decision was made after a Flight Readiness Review (FRR) at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, which decided the record-setting launch was safe to go ahead.

It'll be the second showing for NASA's Commercial Crew Program, which looks to outsource the agency's space flights to private companies. SpaceX successfully demonstrated that could work with the first Crew Dragon mission, Crew-1, which launched in November 2020 and safely reached the International Space Station complete with four new astronauts.

They're still aboard the ISS, but Crew-2 will set a new record of its own when it launches. Onboard will be NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, and JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide. That will make the mission the first to include two international partners on a NASA commercial spacecraft.

The four crew are scheduled to arrive at Kennedy today, and will spend the next week going through final training and checks ahead of the launch. That's scheduled for Thursday, April 22, from Launch Complex 39A. If all goes to plan, lift off will take place at 6:11am EDT.

It's been a long road for the Commercial Crew Program, which is intended to replace the NASA's retired Space Shuttle. Rather than develop and fund a successor to the reusable spacecraft itself, NASA opted instead to partner with private American companies to build options to deploy crew, equipment, and scientific experiments into orbit and beyond. Currently, SpaceX and Boeing are the two first partners under the program.

For Crew-2, it'll be SpaceX's Crew Dragon Endeavour, atop a Falcon 9 rocket, that does the honors.

Things are already getting a little crowded up at the International Space Station. A new crew – consisting of NASA's Mark Vande Hei and Roscosmos' Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov – docked there earlier in April, bringing the total occupancy count to 10.

Meanwhile, it's been an opportunity to show some of the extra technology built into Crew Dragon. The spacecraft had to move from its initial docking point recently, so as to clear the area for a future mission. While the Crew-1 team was aboard at the time, the maneuver was actually completed autonomously, with SpaceX's craft repositioning itself without involvement of the humans inside.