4 Astronauts Head to Fla. Ahead of SpaceX’s Second Crew Launch: 'Another Big Leap'

Nearly six months after SpaceX celebrated its successful first crew launch, four astronauts are gearing up for yet another mission this weekend.

One female and three male astronauts arrived at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sunday ahead of next weekend’s anticipated launch of a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, carried by a Falcon 9 rocket.

American NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, plus Soichi Noguchi of Japan are scheduled to lift off at 7:49 p.m. on Saturday, and should arrive at the International Space Station just under nine hours later, according to the Associated Press.

NASA said that a flight readiness review will begin on Monday between NASA and SpaceX managers to ensure that everything is ready for the mission.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine called the trip “another big leap in the transformation” of how human spaceflight is conducted.

“What we’re talking about here is the commercialization of space,” he said in a statement. “We’re transitioning from test flights to operational flights. Make no mistake, every flight is a test flight when it comes to space travel, but it’s also true that we need to routinely be able to go to the International Space Station.”

The crew have named their Dragon capsule Resilience due to the challenges 2020 has wrought.

“It’s been a tough year for everybody for a lot of different reasons. We felt like if the name of our vehicle could give a little hope, a little inspiration, put a smile on people’s face, then that is definitely what we wanted to do,” said Hopkins, who will serve as commander for the mission, according to the AP.

The astronauts will remain in orbit until the springtime, at which point their replacements will arrive on board another SpaceX Dragon capsule. They will reportedly receive regular food and supply deliveries through a cargo version of the capsule.

SpaceX’s Benji Reed told the AP that the company expects to launch seven Dragons over the next 14 months.

This weekend’s upcoming mission comes after SpaceX’s historic launch in May, which sent NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the ISS for about two months.

When the SpaceX Crew Dragon lifted off in late May, it was the first flight of American astronauts on American rockets from American soil in nine years.

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