Commercial CrewHuman SpaceflightNASANews and Updates

Endeavour Ascends – Crew-8 Heads for ISS

Crew-8 heads for orbit atop Booster 1083 from Launch Complex 39A.
Credit: David Diebold

After several weather related delays and juggling launch pads, NASA and SpaceX have launched the Crew-8 mission to the International Space Station, setting course for a six month scientific endeavor onboard the orbiting laboratory, and setting the stage for the start of Expedition 71. This mission, consisting of three American astronauts and one Russian cosmonaut, will oversee incredible upgrades to the station’s systems, perform critical science, and continue to push boundaries onboard the world’s premier orbiting laboratory. 

The Crew-8 campaign faced several delays in the final week leading up to launch, held up by both the IM-1 lunar landing mission requiring Launch Complex 39A and a sizable weather front moving across the continental United States. An attempt on March 2nd was called off due to high winds, after the crew had already suited up but ahead of walkout. On Sunday, March 3rd – weather became much more favorable for an attempt, and the crew repeated their launch day procedures. After suiting up in the historic Operations and Checkout Building, the Crew-8 astronauts and cosmonauts made their way to the pad onboard SpaceX’s fleet of Teslas, riding past the historic Vehicle Assembly Building on their way to the launch pad.

Grebenkin, Barratt, Dominick and Epps are all smiles as they leave the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building ahead of launch.
Credit: Brandon Berkoff

After the capsule was sealed, SpaceX and NASA performed a number of pre launch checks – validating the health of the rocket and spacecraft. One item of note did emerge during the final 45 minutes of the countdown, a 2.5 inch defect on some of the hatch sealant, which was assessed by the ground team as well as the crew onboard. With limited time left to go in the count, the combined crew-ground choice was made to proceed with the count. At the post launch press briefing, SpaceX’s Dragon Program Manager Sarah Walker reiterated that this was a freshly applied sealant, and that they had intentionally flown with more severe defects – stressing that there was minimal risk to the crew.

Crew-8 heads for space, with Booster 1083 returning to the launch site.
Credit: David Diebold

Following the closeout of the hatch issue and final steps in the count, Dragon Endeavour and Booster 1083 lifted off from Launch Pad 39A on March 3, 2024 at 10:53:38 PM, powering through pristine Florida skies for a rendezvous with the Expedition 70 crew already onboard the ISS. The booster, having completed its first flight supporting NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, returned to the launch site – performing a landing at LZ-1. Endeavour and the second stage continued to orbit, performing a nominal orbital insertion on a 51.6º track. Crew Dragon Endeavour is expected to rendezvous with the ISS for the fifth time at 3:00 AM Eastern.  

Seen from the VAB roof, Booster 1083 makes its first landing.
Credit: Derek Newsome

The joint SpaceX-NASA Crew-8 mission is commanded by Matthew Dominick, a first time space flier. Dominick was selected by NASA to join the 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class. He reported for duty in August 2017. The Colorado native earned a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of San Diego and a Master of Science degree in Systems Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. He graduated from U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. He has more than 1,600 hours of flight time in 28 aircraft, 400 carrier-arrested landings, and 61 combat missions – holding the rank of Commander in the United States Navy.

Piloting Crew Dragon Endeavour is veteran astronaut Dr. Michael R. Barratt. Dr. Barratt was selected by NASA in 2000. Board certified in Internal and Aerospace Medicine, he has participated in two spaceflights, during one of which he performed a long duration stay on the ISS. In 2009, Dr. Barratt served as Flight Engineer for Expedition 19/20. He also flew on STS-133, which delivered the Permanent Multipurpose Module and fourth Express Logistics Carrier. Dr. Barratt serves in the Mission Support branches providing medical and human factors expertise to multiple spaceflight programs. He has, as of the day of launch, spent a total of 212 days in space across two spaceflights. 

Acting as Mission Specialist 1 for Crew-8 is Dr. Jeanette J. Epps of Syracuse, New York. Dr. Epps was selected by NASA in 2009 as an astronaut. She completed astronaut candidate training which included scientific and technical briefings, intensive instruction in International Space Station systems, spacewalk training, robotics, T-38 flight training and wilderness survival training. During her graduate program, she was a NASA Fellow, and authored several pieces related to her study of Aerospace Engineering. Dr. Epps worked for Ford Motor Company where she received both a provisional patent and a U.S. patent for her research. After leaving Ford, she joined the Central Intelligence Agency for seven years working as a Technical Intelligence Officer before becoming an astronaut. 

Mission Specialist 2 for Crew-8 is Alexander Grebenkin of Roscosmos. Following an agreement with ISS partners, NASA and Roscsomos have swapped seats on their respective crew vehicles, allowing for access to the station in the event that one is grounded. Grebenkin was selected in the class of 2018 group of Russian cosmonauts. On November 24, 2020, he passed his required state exams following the completion of the general space training course. On December 2, 2020, he was awarded the qualification of a test cosmonaut. On March 1, 2023, he was selected as a backup for cosmonaut Konstantin Borisov on the flight of the Crew-7 mission before being moved to the prime spot for Crew-8. 

The crew is expected to dock to the forward port of the Harmony module at roughly 3 AM on Tuesday, March 5.
Credit: NASA

Crew-8’s complement will join the tail end of Expedition 70, the 70th long duration expedition to the ISS in its 26 year history. The expedition has seen short duration visits, in the form of the third mission from Axiom Space, as well as a nearly year long stay from Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chub – with the former set to accumulate over a thousand days in space by the time of his return later this spring. Following the arrival of Crew-8, the complement of Crew-7 will return to Earth carrying Jasmin Mohgbeli, Andreas Mogensen, Satoshi Furukawa and Konstantin Borisov, ending their six month stay on the ISS. The handover period to Expedition 71 will begin when Soyuz MS-25 arrives at the station, carrying NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson. Also onboard will be Oleg Novitsky and Marina Vasilevskaya, a Russian cosmonaut and Belarusian spaceflight participant, who will be participating in a short stay rotation. They will return to Earth after 12 days, rotating home with NASA astronaut Loral O’Hara. This will mark the official start of Expedition 71.

NASA’s Commercial Crew program continues to provide American access to space, ensuring that domestic human launch capability is maintained in the face of a changing geopolitical situation. The United States’ spacecraft fleet is expected to be expanded with Boeing’s Starliner capsule – with the first flight expected later in April. This Crewed Flight Test, or CFT, will serve to validate human-in-loop systems for the Starliner system, before making its debut rotation flight, expected to be USCV-10, with a joint Japanese-Canadian-American crew. With Crew-8 well on their way, the ISS is ready for a new round of science and discovery.

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