SpaceX has 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 most since SpaceX began crewed flights in 2020. There is a short flight time.
“This is the fastest launch to the dock that we’ve had,” NASA Commercial Crew Program Manager Steve Stich told reporters after the launch early Wednesday. “It takes almost the same amount of time to go from New York to Singapore, so that’s interesting.”
SpaceX launched Crew-4 astronauts on a new Crew Dragon capsule called Freedom and a 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, at 7:37 p.m. EDT (2337 GMT). Total flight time: 15 hours 45 minutes.
related: Amazing 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 latest Crew-3 flight for NASA took almost a full day.
“I would say it’s a little bit of luck with how we proceed in this,” said Jessica Jensen, SpaceX’s vice president of customer operations and integration, adding that any delay could change the flight time. “You can vary from 10 to 20 hours of phasing over a day or two. 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 in Florida. “
The Crew-4 mission launched three NASA astronauts and one European Space Agency astronaut to the space station to begin the six-month mission. Aboard Crew Dragon, called Freedom, was Crew-4 mission commander Kjell Lindgren; pilot Bob Hines; mission specialist Jessica Watkins (all of NASA); and European Space Agency mission specialist Samantha Cristoforetti.
SpaceX’s short flight came just before a spacewalk (an extravehicular activity or EVA in NASA parlance) by two Russian astronauts outside the space station on Thursday, NASA officials said, so the Dragon crew could dock and settle down quickly. Bonus was.
“This short meeting was very favorable for us,” Stitch said. “We can get to the station a little early and do the preparations we need once we’ve docked to prepare the Dragon for the EVA.”
While the Crew-4 Dragon flight was SpaceX’s fastest flight to the station, it was not the fastest crewed flight ever. The title is still held by Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft, which holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest time to station in October 2020 with a journey of 3 hours, 3 minutes.