NASA and SpaceX will hold press conference to provide an update on the agency’s next astronaut launch from Florida today (Feb. 4) and you can follow it live online.
The teleconference, which NASA announced Thursday afternoon (Feb. 3) comes as NASA and SpaceX are investigating parachute inflation delays during recent Dragon capsule landings. It will begin at 12 p.m. EST (1700 GMT) and will play live in the audio feed above at start time.
SpaceX’s Crew-4 mission is currently scheduled to launch on April 15 to ferry four astronauts to the International Space Station. The crew includes: NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, commander; Robert Hines, pilot; Jessica Watkins, mission specialist; and European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, mission specialist. It will mark SpaceX’s fifth crewed spaceflight for NASA and sixth overall, including the all-civilian Inspiration4 flight last September, which did not visit the space station.
On Jan. 24, an uncrewed SpaceX CRS-24 cargo ship experienced a delayed opening of one of its four main parachutes as it splashed down off the Florida coast, according to SpaceNews. While the delayed opening did not hinder the capsule’s splashdown – and eventually fully inflated – a similar event also occurred on Nov. 8, when a Dragon spacecraft carrying the Crew-2 astronauts for NASA splashed down. The crew landed safely, but one of their capsule’s four main parachutes opened about 75 seconds later than the others, SpaceNews reported.
“During the return of the SpaceX CRS-24 mission, teams observed a single main parachute that lagged during inflation like the return of the Crew-2 mission,” NASA spokesperson Josh Finch told Space.com an an email Wednesday (Feb. 2). “The vertical descent rate of both flights was within the system design margins at splashdown, and all four main parachutes fully opened prior to splashdown on both missions.”
Finch said NASA and SpaceX are working together to analyze imagery from the CRS-24 splashdown, as well as the physical hardware from the spacecraft’s parachute system.
“This review of flight data and parachute performance models will be completed prior to the launch of the Crew-4 mission and the return of Crew-3 astronauts from the International Space Station,” Finch wrote. “NASA and SpaceX are completing the parachute analysis as part of the standard postflight reviews conducted at the end of each mission.”
SpaceX is one of two commercial companies with multi-billion-dollar contracts with NASA to fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station. SpaceX uses its Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rockets. The other company is Boeing, which plans to launch astronauts on its own Starliner spacecraft and Atlas V rockets, but still needs to complete a second uncrewed test flight later this year before its first crewed flight.