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SpaceX on Sunday became the first private company to launch humans to the International Space Station.
At 7:27 p.m. EST on Sunday, three NASA astronauts—Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, and Michael Hopkins—and JAXA specialist Soichi Noguchi, lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, bound for the ISS.
Previously scheduled for a Halloween launch, the mission was delayed until mid-November, allowing SpaceX more time to evaluate what NASA called “off-nominal behavior” of a Falcon 9. The waiting paid off, and the Crew Dragon spacecraft, dubbed Resilience, is set to autonomously dock to the space station at around 11 p.m. tonight. Tune in to NASA Television or the agency’s website for live coverage of the mooring, hatch opening, and welcome ceremony.
“I could not be more proud of the work we’ve done here today,” Gwynne Shotwell, president and COO of SpaceX, said in a statement. “Falcon 9 looked great, Dragon was dropped off into a beautiful orbit about 12 minutes into the mission, and we’ll get more data as we go.”
Walker, Glover, Hopkins, and Noguchi join Expedition 64 members Kate Rubins, Sergey Ryzhikov, and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov for a six-month mission aboard the ISS. The new team will also be present to welcome the Russian Soyuz vehicle and next SpaceX Crew Dragon in 2021.
Sunday’s historic launch—the first of six planned NASA/SpaceX Commercial Crew Program flights—paves the way for a future of routine launches, ferrying international scientists to and from the ISS. After NASA’s Space Shuttle program ended in 2011, the agency was forced to rely on Russia to get astronauts to the floating lab.
“NASA is delivering on its commitment to the American people and our international partners to provide safe, reliable, and cost-effective missions to the International Space Station using American private industry,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.
“This is an important mission for NASA, SpaceX, and our partners at JAXA,” he continued. “And we look forward to watching this crew arrive at [the] station to carry on our partnership for all of humanity.”
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