SpaceX just set a new record for its fastest Dragon astronaut journey yet.
Elon Musk’s spaceflight company launched four Crew-4 astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA in less than 16 hours on Wednesday (April 27), the shortest flight time since SpaceX began manned flights in 2020. .
“This is the fastest dock launch we’ve ever done,” Steve Stitch, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, told reporters after the launch early Wednesday. “It’s about the same time it takes to go from New York to Singapore, so that’s kind of interesting.”
SpaceX launched the Crew-4 astronauts on a new Crew Dragon capsule called Freedom and the Falcon 9 rocket at 3:52 a.m. EDT (0752 GMT) from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The astronauts arrived at the space station later that night and docked at 7:37 pm EDT (23:37 GMT). Total flight time: 15 hours and 45 minutes.
Related: Incredible launch photos of SpaceX’s Crew-4 astronauts
For comparison, SpaceX’s first crewed flight for NASA, the Demo-2 mission in May 2020, took about 19 hours to reach the station, while its last Crew-3 flight for NASA took nearly a day. complete.
“I would say it’s a bit of luck as to how we’d come out on this,” said Jessica Jensen, SpaceX’s vice president of operations and customer integration, adding that any delays could have changed the flight time. “You can vary from 10 to 20 hours of phase in just one or two days. It’s not really that we’ve changed anything, it’s just the orbital mechanics of where the ISS is and where it’s coming from over Florida.”
The Crew-4 mission sent three NASA astronauts and one European Space Agency astronaut to the space station to begin a six-month mission. Aboard the Dragon Freedom Crew were Crew-4 Commander Kjell Lindgren; pilot Bob Hines; mission specialist Jessica Watkins (all NASA); and mission specialist Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency.
SpaceX’s shortest flight came just before a spacewalk (an extravehicular activity or EVA in NASA parlance) by two Russian cosmonauts outside the space station on Thursday, so getting the Dragon crew to dock and installed quickly was a plus, NASA officials said.
“This short date was quite favorable for us,” said Stitch. “We can get to the station a little quicker and we can make any preparations we need once we dock to get the dragon ready for EVA.”
While the Crew-4 Dragon flight was SpaceX’s fastest flight to the station, it was not the fastest manned flight in history. That title still goes to Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft, which holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest time to reach the station with a journey of 3 hours and 3 minutes in October 2020.