SpaceX's Crew-4 just broke a major record on the way to the International Space Station
SpaceX set another new record with its latest crewed launch to the International Space Station (ISS).
The Crew-4 mission, which launched to the ISS on Wednesday, April 27, was the fastest Crew Dragon astronaut trip to reach the orbital space station.
"This is the fastest launch to dock that we've done," Steve Stitch, NASA's Commercial Crew Program manager, told reporters at a briefing after the launch on Wednesday. "It's about the same time it takes to go from New York to Singapore, so it's kind of interesting."
SpaceX's fastest crewed ISS flight
The four Crew-4 astronauts reached the ISS in less than 16 hours, making it the shortest flight time of all of SpaceX's six crewed missions to the space station, including Crew-1 to 4, the all-civilian Ax-1, and SpaceX's first-ever human spaceflight, Demo-2.
Crew-4 launched on a brand new Crew Dragon capsule called Freedom atop a Falcon 9 rocket at 3:52 a.m. EDT (0752 GMT) from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. After a total flight time of 15 hours and 45 minutes and roughly 10 orbits around Earth, the astronauts arrived at the space station at 7:37 p.m. EDT (2337 GMT).
As a point of reference, SpaceX's Demo-2 mission, in May 2020, took roughly 19 hours, while Crew-3 took almost an entire day to reach the station.
Will ISS trips continue to get shorter?
Though SpaceX is continually improving the efficiency of its launches and machinery — such as its new Raptor V2 engines — the new ISS journey time record was more down to chance than anything.
According to Jessica Jensen, SpaceX vice president of customer operations and integration, who also spoke at the press briefing, any delay would have impacted the flight time, making it either shorter or longer.
"I'd say it's sort of a little bit of luck as to how we would up in this," Jensen said. "You can vary by 10 to 20 hours of phasing just you know in a day or two. It's not really that we changed anything, it's just the orbital mechanics of where the ISS is and where it's coming over Florida."
SpaceX and NASA's Crew-4 mission sent three NASA astronauts and one European Space Agency astronaut to the ISS for what will be a six-month stay. Though it was SpaceX's fastest flight to the ISS, the record for the all-time fastest crewed trip to the station is held by Russia's Roscosmos, which took a total of three hours and three minutes in October 2020. New reports indicate that Russia is quitting the ISS following its invasion of Ukraine, ending a decades-long era of scientific collaboration.