After a brief delay, SpaceX has launched the first operational commercial crew mission with four astronauts on board to the International Space Station (ISS) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, according to reports early Monday.
SpaceX has carried four astronauts to orbit, and after a trip of some 27.5 hours in orbit, the astronauts will dock with the ISS and begin a six month stay.
Early Monday, the nine engines of the private company’s Falcon 9 rocket arced over the Atlantic Ocean. The four astronauts on this flight are Michael S Hopkins, Shannon Walker and Victor J Glover of NASA, and Soichi Noguchi, a Japanese astronaut.
NASA had designated the launch as the first operational flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft built and operated by SpaceX, the rocket company started by Elon Musk.
This launch, known as Crew-1, is a regularly scheduled trip to take four crew members for a six-month stay at the space station. This is the first of what NASA calls “operational” flights of the Crew Dragon.
“I am extremely proud to say we are returning regular human spaceflight launches to American soil on an American rocket and spacecraft,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine had said.
“For the next 15 months, we will fly seven crew and cargo Dragon missions for NASA,” SpaceX head of crewed flights Benji Reed said during a phone call on Tuesday, adding, “That means that (from December) starting with Crew-1, there will be a continuous presence of SpaceX Dragons in orbit.”
The next crewed mission is expected to blast off at the end of March 2021, carrying one European, one Japanese and two American crew members.