Elon Musk-owned commercial rocket firm SpaceX along with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Friday launched four astronauts into the International Space Station (ISS). NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission consists of the first-ever crew propelled into orbit by a rocket booster recycled from a previous spaceflight.
The mission consists of four astronauts namely, NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet. The launch took place at 5:49 am EDT (3:19 pm IST) on Friday from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was aired live on NASA TV.
During Crew Dragon’s flight, SpaceX will command the spacecraft from its mission control center in Hawthorne, California, and NASA teams will monitor space station operations throughout the flight from Mission Control Center at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The crew is expected to reach ISS on Saturday at 5:10 am following a nearly 23-hour spaceflight in the same Dragon capsule used by SpaceX’s debut crew last May.
The latest mission marks the second “operational” space station team to be launched by NASA aboard a Dragon Crew capsule since the US resumed flying astronauts into space from its soil last year, following a nine-year hiatus at the end of the US space shuttle program in 2011. It is also the third crewed flight launched into orbit under NASA’s fledgling public-private partnership with SpaceX.
The Crew-2 members are expected to spend about six months aboard the orbiting space laboratory conducting science experiments and maintenance before returning to Earth after October 31, the US space agency said in a statement. The Crew Dragon spacecraft can stay in orbit for at least 210 days, which is required by NASA.
The four astronauts of the Crew-2 mission will be joining the four members of the Crew-1 mission and spend about five days together on ISS before the Crew-1 team returns to Earth. The Crew-1 mission was sent to ISS in November last year.
The Falcon 9 rocket used in the Crew-2 mission was used to launch the Crew-1 into orbit five months ago, marking the first time a previously flown rocket booster has ever been re-used in a crewed launch. The reusable booster is designed in a way that it flies itself back to Earth safely on separating from the rest of the rocket minutes after launch.
SpaceX has attempted dozens of successful Falcon 9 booster return landings, and the Elon Musk-led firm has refurbished and re-used most of them, some for multiple spaceflights. But all of those flights were only used for carrying cargo.