SpaceX is in preparation to launch its first official operational crew mission aboard the Dragon Spacecraft, with just one test — The Demo-2, left in the way. And while SpaceX readies for the historic launch, Japan too is getting onboard. JAXA, the Japanese nation space agency, has announced that one of its astronaut, Soichi Noguchi, will be joining the crew, that will have 3 other U.S. astronauts. The crew of four is supposed to take flight by the end of 2020, to reach the International Space Station for a stay of six months.
Noguchi has been to space two times before, once in June 2010 when he went to the ISS on a Soyuz vehicle, and once in 2005 on Space Shuttle Discovery, when he helped assemble part of the ISS. With this announcement, he will become the first person to join SpaceX for its Crew Dragon mission, after Demo-2 has been conducted. JAXA has announced that Noguchi has started preparing for his trip to the ISS.
U.S. astronauts Shannon Walker, Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover have been selected as the other three members of the crew. While the Crew Dragon has the capacity to seat 7 people, NASA is probably going to stick to the earlier figure of 4.
Before the operational flight Crew-1, comes the Demo-2, which is scheduled for some time in May this year, and will have two NASA astronauts on board. The scope of Demo-2 has been altered a little in the sense that the astronauts, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, will be actually doing some shift work on the International Space Station. Demo-2 will also become the first spacecraft mission to take off from the U.S. soil after the final flight of the Space Shuttle in July 2011.
SpaceX is in contract with NASA to fly multiple missions to the ISS, in a multi-bilion deal that NASA has made with SpaceX and its competitor Boeing.
It must be noted that SpaceX launched a successful uncrewed test flight to ISS last year, while Boeing has run into a lot of setbacks as the CST-100 Starliner vehicle has been delayed due to an unpleasant test flight in 2019.
SpaceX also plans to send four paying space tourists to the ISS in the latter half of 2021 in an all private Crew Dragon mission paid by the Houston-based Axiom Space.