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SpaceX successfully launches 4 astronauts to space aboard its Crew Dragon craft

By Hoots the Owl - on 17 Nov 2020, 2:19am

SpaceX successfully launches 4 astronauts to space aboard its Crew Dragon craft

 

Image Source: NASA

SpaceX has successfully launched a crew of four astronauts to space aboard its Crew Dragon craft, marking the first operational mission of the craft. The astronauts will be making a 27-hour journey to the International Space Station (ISS), a voyage that marks a new era for NASA as it partners with a private firm to ferry people to and from the ISS. 

Back in May, the Crew Dragon spacecraft sent Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the ISS as well, but that mission was a test meant to assess the safety of crewed flight aboard the craft. That mission was a success, and Crew Dragon is now the first commercial spacecraft to be certified by NASA to carry humans. It is part of NASA's efforts to end its sole reliance on Russia's Soyuz to get to the ISS – since 2006, the space agency has spent a whopping US$4 billion on seats aboard Soyuz spacecraft. 

SpaceX isn't the only one NASA has tapped to help send its astronauts to the ISS though, and Boeing has also been working on its own capsule called the CST-100 Starliner. However, the Starliner ran into several technical glitches during a test last year, and a second uncrewed flight test is planned for early next year. 

SpaceX's latest flight, called Crew-1, made use of its Falcon 9 rocket and took off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Dubbed Resilience, this Crew Dragon capsule carries NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, in addition to Soichi Noguchi from the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency. 

This particular mission will also last a lot longer than Behnken and Hurley's stints aboard the ISS, which spanned just two months. Three of the astronauts – Hopkins, Walker, and Noguchi – have experience with earlier long-duration missions, and the crew's arrival will also be the first time that the space station's long-duration expedition crew size will increase from six to seven crew members. 

The crew is tasked with conducting science and maintenance during a six-month stay on board the ISS and are scheduled to return in spring 2021. This would be the longest human space mission launched from the United States. At the end of their mission, Crew-1 astronauts will board Crew Dragon, which will then undock automatically, depart the station, and re-enter Earth's atmosphere, with both NASA and SpaceX supporting seven splashdown sites located off Florida's east coast and the Gulf of Mexico. 

Crew-1 is expected to dock with the ISS at 11PM EST on 16 Nov.