SpaceX readies Falcon 9 for commercial flight to International Space Station | Space

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An international four-man crew strapped into a SpaceX capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket at the Kennedy Space Center Tuesday for a dress-rehearsal countdown that sets the stage for launch Wednesday on a privately-funded research mission to the International Space Station.

Retired NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría, Italian co-pilot Walter Villadei, European Space Agency astronaut Marcus Wandt of Sweden, and Turkey’s Alper Gezeravci, spent the afternoon rehearsing launch-day procedures aboard their Crew Dragon spacecraft before departing the pad to clear the way for an engine test firing.

A SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule perched atop a Falcon 9 rocket will carry an international four-man crew to the space station for a two-week research mission on Jan. 16, 2023. Launch from the Kennedy Space Center is planned for Jan. 17, 2023. Image SpaceX.A few hours later, SpaceX engineers fired up the Falcon 9’s first stage engines to verify their readiness for blastoff. If all goes well, López-Alegría and his three crewmates will strap back in Wednesday for launch at 5:11 p.m. EST, kicking off an automated one-and-a-half-day rendezvous with the space station.

During a late Tuesday teleconference, officials said the rocket and spacecraft were ready to go after last-minute fixes for a parachute issue that cropped up after a recent cargo flight and work to replace connectors holding the Crew Dragon spacecraft to the Falcon 9’s upper stage that did not appear to be torqued, or tightened, to specifications.

Few details were provided, but Benji Reed, SpaceX senior director of human spaceflight programs, said the work was done in “an abundance of caution” and “we’re ready to fly.”

It will be the third piloted flight to the station sponsored by Houston-based Axiom Space in an ongoing NASA-sanctioned program to increase private-sector…

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