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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.

Oath Keepers leader denied bail on Capitol riot sedition charge

Oath Keepers co-founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes. Photo: Susan Walsh/AP

A federal judge ordered Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes to remain jailed Wednesday until trial on charges stemming from the Capitol riot.

Why it matters: The judge said the most prominent far-right figure charged in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection had access to weapons and his alleged "continued advocacy for violence against the federal government" gave credence to prosecutors' view that, if released, Rhodes could endanger others.

Who in Congress is talking about Ukraine the most

Data: Quorum; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Mentions of Ukraine or Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in congressional statements and social media posts have been on the rise — with nearly 1,000 already this month, according to data from Quorum.

Why it matters: The growing threat of a Russian invasion has been mirrored by a growth in Ukraine-related chatter.