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Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide 'excited' to fly aboard SpaceX ship

This supplied photo shows Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide in a Crew Dragon space suit during training. (Photo courtesy of SpaceX/Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Astronaut Akihiko Hoshide said Monday that he is prepared and eager to become the second Japanese to be ferried to the International Space Station aboard the commercially developed SpaceX spacecraft.

    "I'm very excited...especially flying on a new Crew Dragon, to see what it's like to fly and compare differences and similarities with the (Space) Shuttle and Soyuz," the 52-year-old veteran of two spaceflights told an online press conference.

    Hoshide attended the news conference with three fellow crew members from NASA and the European Space Agency ahead of their liftoff that is scheduled no earlier than April 20.

    For Hoshide, the upcoming mission will be his third trip to the ISS following stays in 2008 and 2012. Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi, 55, became the first non-NASA astronaut to fly aboard the Crew Dragon in November last year and has been aboard the orbiting laboratory since.

    Hoshide will also be the second Japanese after Noguchi to have traveled on all three spacecraft -- the U.S. Space Shuttle, Russia's Soyuz and the Crew Dragon.

    "I think it's an honor for now, but I hope everyone else will get a chance (to fly on different vehicles)," Hoshide said.

    He also said his stay at the ISS, which is expected to last until the northern hemisphere fall, should be "a lot of fun" with different activities and experiments set to be carried out.

    Hoshide is scheduled to become the second Japanese to serve as a commander of the ISS, following in the footsteps of Koichi Wakata, 57, who served as ISS commander in 2014, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

    The astronaut told the news conference he does not know exactly when he will take on the role of ISS commander, but that he is "looking forward to just working with these incredible crew members."

    The SpaceX system, developed by U.S. company Space Exploration Technologies Corp., is intended to serve as a successor to NASA's Space Shuttle program that was in service for 30 years through 2011.

    Its first and second crewed flights, the latter of which Noguchi was aboard, went successfully last year.

    The Crew Dragon which Hoshide will make the journey on is to be reused. It will be carried by a Falcon 9 rocket which will be reused from the launch that took Noguchi and his crewmates to the ISS in November, according to SpaceX and the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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