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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
Dec 1, 2020 - Science

The many ways foreign powers can mess with satellites

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Some nations are capable of disabling satellites without destroying them, opening up different avenues for how conflicts may play out in space.

The big picture: One of the major concerns about warfare in space is the uncontrollable nature of space junk created from destroying or permanently disabling satellites.

Government watchdog sues Trump, Kushner and WH to prevent records being destroyed

President Trump. Photo: Erin Schaff/Pool/Getty Images

A government watchdog group filed a lawsuit against President Trump, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and the White House on Tuesday to prevent them from destroying records during his remaining time in office.

Why it matters: The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and other groups allege in their suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, that Trump and his administration are violating the Presidential Records Act by failing to properly preserve records of official government business.

What COVID-19 vaccine trials still need to do

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

COVID-19 vaccines are being developed at record speed, but some experts fear the accelerated regulatory process could interfere with ongoing research about the vaccines.

Why it matters: Even after the first COVID-19 vaccines are deployed, scientific questions will remain about how they are working and how to improve them.