By CBSMiami.com Team

CAPE CANAVERAL (CBSMiami/AP) – SpaceX’s most international crew of astronauts yet arrived at their launch site Friday in Cape Canaveral, after getting the go-ahead from NASA, for next week’s planned launch.

By coincidence, the flight to the International Space Station is set for next Thursday — Earth Day. It’s a reminder of NASA’s core mission of studying the home planet, the space agency’s acting administrator Steve Jurczyk said as he welcomed the astronauts to Kennedy Space Center.

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The three men and one woman represent the U.S., France and Japan: NASA’s Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Thomas Pesquet and Akihiko Hoshide, all experienced space fliers.

“It’s definitely getting real,” Kimbrough, the spacecraft commander, said after arriving by plane from Houston.

SpaceX Crew 2 members, from left, European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide gather at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Friday, April 16, 2021 to prepare for a mission to the International Space Station. The launch is targeted for April 22. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

This will be SpaceX’s third launch of astronauts in less than a year, and the first to use a recycled Falcon rocket and Dragon crew capsule. Both were designed for reuse.

SpaceX refurbished both and added safety upgrades. Most of the capsule is already “flight proven,” company officials noted, except for some new valves, thermal protection covers and parachutes.

NASA turned to U.S. private companies for crew transport after the space shuttle program ended in 2011.

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“Certainly, I think all of them, until we get several years under our belt, should be considered test flights,” Kimbrough told reporters.

The crew will spend six months at the orbiting lab, replacing another SpaceX crew that’s close to coming home.

Kathy Lueders, head of NASA’s human exploration office, said it was “moving” to be on the verge of flying three SpaceX crew flights in 11 months.

“Looking back, it’s really, really amazing what both the SpaceX and NASA teams have accomplished,” she said.

SpaceX said it must resolve one issue before conducting a test firing at the launch pad this weekend. It appears the company has been loading more liquid oxygen into its first-stage boosters than anticipated, and engineers want to make “extra certain” that poses no safety risks, said Bill Gerstenmaier, a new SpaceX vice president who used to work for NASA.

Thursday’s Earth Day lift off time is 6:11 a.m.

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(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press and CNN contributed to this report.)

CBSMiami.com Team