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From left to right: Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins and Soichi Noguchi. Photo: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Saturday's SpaceX launch will bring a fresh crew of astronauts to the International Space Station and kick off what are expected to be regular crewed SpaceX missions to orbit for NASA.

Why it matters: This will be SpaceX's second crewed flight and its first operational mission after a successful test flight in May brought astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the station.

How to watch: NASA will air coverage of the crewed launch carrying NASA's Hopkins, Shannon Walker, Victor Glover and Japan's Soichi Noguchi to orbit starting midday on Saturday.

  • You can watch it live via NASA TV here starting at 3:30pm ET, with launch expected at 7:49pm ET.

What to watch: Each of the astronauts flying to space aboard the SpaceX capsule named Resilience will bring their own skills to their six-month mission aboard the station.

  • Hopkins — who first flew to space in 2013 — will command the Crew Dragon during its flight, acting as the astronaut responsible for making sure the crew stays safe during the mission.
  • Walker is heading to space for her second mission aboard the station. She was chosen as an astronaut in 2004.
  • This will be Glover's first flight to space, where he is set to become the first Black American to live long-duration on the space station.
  • The Crew Dragon will be the third spacecraft Noguchi has flown aboard, alongside the space shuttle and Soyuz.

The big picture: These SpaceX launches are key for NASA as the agency transitions away from buying flights to orbit aboard Russia's Soyuz spacecraft.

  • The agency hasn't purchased any more Soyuz seats, making SpaceX's Crew Dragon its only game in town, at least for now.
  • Boeing is also expected to start flying astronauts to space for NASA at some point in the coming year, giving the space agency a bit more redundancy when it comes to getting its people to orbit.

1 fun thing: Once the four new crew members arrive on the space station, joining the three other crewmates onboard already, sleeping quarters are going to be pretty tight.

  • Hopkins will likely sleep in the Crew Dragon while docked to the station, at least until a new crew quarter can be delivered to them in orbit.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Jan 26, 2021 - Science

What to know about the Moon rock in Biden's Oval Office

The Moon rock now in the Oval Office. Photo: NASA

President Joe Biden hasn't revealed much about his space policy priorities yet, but space fans can take heart that space is on his mind, thanks to an Apollo Moon rock that now decorates the Oval Office.

Why it matters: The Moon rock — loaned to the White House by NASA — is on display "in symbolic recognition of earlier generations’ ambitions and accomplishments, and support for America’s current Moon to Mars exploration approach," according to a statement from NASA.

DOJ seizes 36 U.S. website domains for Iranian government disinformation

Iran's President-Elect Ebrahim Raisi holds a press conference at Shahid Beheshti conference hall in Tehran on Monday. Photo: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images

American officials seized 36 news website domains linked to Iran's government for spreading disinformation as part of a propaganda campaign, the Department of Justice said Tuesday.

Why it matters: The action comes at a time of heightened tension between the two countries, with Iran's hardline President-elect Ebrahim Raisi on Monday ruling out negotiating over missiles or meeting with President Biden as the two nations hold talks on returning Tehran to the 2015 nuclear deal.

NYT: Khashoggi's killers had paramilitary training in U.S.

A vigil for journalist Jamal Khashoggi outside the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, following his killing in 2018 in Turkey. Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Several Saudis who took part in the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi had paramilitary training in the U.S. under a State Department contract a year before his 2018 death, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

Why it matters: While there's no evidence the department knew that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sanctioned Saudi officials to detain, kidnap and torture dissidents in 2017, the approval of such training underscores how "intensely intertwined" the U.S. has become with a nation known for human rights abuses, per the NYT.