NASA and Elon Musk’s commercial rocket company SpaceX launched a new four-astronaut team on a flight to the International Space Station early on Friday, the first crew ever propelled toward orbit by a rocket booster recycled from a previous spaceflight.
The company’s Crew Dragon capsule, Endeavour, soared into the darkened pre-dawn sky atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket shortly before 6am Eastern time (3:30pm IST) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, US, in a blast off aired live on NASA TV.
The crew is due to arrive at the space station, which orbits some 250 miles (400km) above Earth, early on Saturday following a flight of nearly 24 hours.
The mission marks the second “operational” space station team to be launched by NASA aboard a Dragon Crew capsule since the United States resumed flying astronauts into space from US 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 rocket company founded and owned by Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur who is also CEO of electric carmarker Tesla.
The first was an out-and-back test mission carrying just two astronauts into orbit last May, followed by SpaceX’s first full-fledged four-member crew in November.
Friday’s Crew 2 team consists of two NASA astronauts — mission commander Shane Kimbrough, 53, and pilot Megan McArthur, 49, — along with Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, 52, and fellow mission specialist Thomas Pesquet, 43, a French engineer of the European Space Agency.
© Thomson Reuters 2021
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