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SpaceX successfully launched four astronauts en route to the International Space Station early this morning. The mission, dubbed Crew-2, marks the first time reusing a Crew Dragon capsule to fly humans.
A veteran Falcon 9 rocket, previously piloted during SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission last year, took off at 5:49 a.m. EST from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. Commander Shane Kimbrough and pilot Megan McArthur of NASA join mission specialists Akihiko Hoshide of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Thomas Pesquet, a French aerospace engineer from the European Space Agency (ESA), for a six-month mission on the ISS.
“It has been an incredible year for NASA and our Commercial Crew Program, with three crewed launches to the Space Station since last May,” acting administrator Steve Jurczyk said in a statement. “This is another important milestone for NASA, SpaceX, and our international partners at ESA and JAXA, and for the future of scientific research on board the Space Station. It will be an exciting moment to see our crews greet one another on station for our first crew handover under the Commercial Crew Program.”
Crew Dragon spacecraft Endeavour is expected to autonomously dock with the ISS’s Harmony module early Saturday morning. Once aboard the artificial satellite, the team will conduct microgravity experiments, complete maintenance, and carry out spacewalks outside the station. Crew-2 astronauts are scheduled to return home no earlier than Oct. 31.
Dragon is also carrying nearly 250 pounds of cargo, new science hardware, and experiments, including a university student-led investigation to study possible causes for suppressed immune response in microgravity.
This might be the second crewed NASA and SpaceX mission, but it represents several firsts:
- First commercial crew mission to fly two international partners
- First time two JAXA astronauts are on the station at the same time (during next week’s handover)
- First commercial crew mission to fly an ESA astronaut
- First commercial crew handover on the space station (Crew-1 and Crew-2 astronauts will spend five days together before Crew-1 return to Earth)
- First reuse of the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket on a crew mission
- First time two commercial crew spacecraft will be docked to the ISS at the same time
“There’s obviously a long way to go,” Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, said. “But now we can celebrate the Crew-2 launch and look forward to seeing them join their other Expedition 65 colleagues as we prepare to bring Crew-1 home next week.” For a short time, the number of crew on the space station will increase to 11, before Shannon Walker, Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and JAXA’s Soichi Noguchi depart.
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