NASA, JAXA Crew Added To SpaceX Dragon ISS Flight

Shannon Walker
Credit: NASA

Veteran astronauts Shannon Walker of NASA and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have been added to the crew of the first operational mission under SpaceX’s Commercial Crew flight services contract. 

Walker, 55, previously served as a flight engineer aboard the International Space Station from June-November 2010. 

Noguchi, 54, first flew on the STS-114 space shuttle mission in July 2005, which marked NASA’s return to flight following the Columbia accident. He flew a second time as part of the ISS Expedition 22 and 23 crews from December 2009-June 2010.

They join NASA astronauts Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins, who were assigned in August 2019, as the crew for SpaceX’s first operational mission under NASA’s Commercial Crew program. 

Glover, Hopkins, Walker and Noguchi will fly pending the successful completion of a Crew Dragon flight test by astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley targeted for mid- to late May. SpaceX’s Dragon transportation system will also need to be certified prior to the first of six operational missions under its 2014 $2.6 billion Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract. 

Boeing holds a second CCtCap contract, currently worth $4.4 billion. The company has not yet presented its plan for a second flight test of its CST-100 Starliner following software issues uncovered during the capsule’s orbital debut in December 2019.

Boeing is due to report back to NASA in early April, NASA tells Aerospace DAILY. The plan is expected to include a recommendation to either repeat an uncrewed flight test to the ISS, having fallen short of the mark in December, or proceed with a crewed flight test by NASA astronauts Michael Fincke and Nicole Aunapu Mann, as well as Boeing astronaut Christopher Ferguson. 

NASA in August assigned Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada to Starliner’s first operational mission. Additional crew assignments are pending.

Irene Klotz

Irene Klotz is Senior Space Editor for Aviation Week, based in Cape Canaveral. Before joining Aviation Week in 2017, Irene spent 25 years as a wire service reporter covering human and robotic spaceflight, commercial space, astronomy, science and technology for Reuters and United Press International.