The crew first ever to be propelled towards orbit by a rocket booster recycled from a previous spaceflight.
NASA and Elon Musk’s commercial rocket company SpaceX have launched a new four-astronaut team on a flight to the International Space Station (ISS), the first crew ever propelled towards orbit by a rocket booster recycled from a previous spaceflight.
The three men and one woman crew from the United States, Japan and France should reach the ISS early on Saturday morning after a 23-hour ride in the same Dragon capsule used by SpaceX’s debut crew last May.
It was the first time SpaceX reused a capsule and rocket to launch astronauts for NASA after years of proving the capability on station supply runs.
The rocket was used last November on the company’s second astronaut flight.
It was also the third crewed flight launched into orbit under NASA’s fledgeling public-private partnership with SpaceX, the rocket company founded and owned by Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur who is also the CEO of electric carmaker Tesla Inc.
Astronauts Thomas Pesquet, Shane Kimbrough, Megan McArthur and Akihiko Hoshide strode out in their suits to say goodbye to their families.
They then boarded three white Teslas for the launchpad, a new tradition established by SpaceX, with Musk also making an appearance.
Flying on reused vehicles has been a key cost-saving goal of NASA’s partnerships with private industry.
After launch, the Falcon 9 rocket will return to Earth for an upright vertical landing on a drone ship, and the Crew Dragon capsule is scheduled to dock with the ISS at 5:10am (09:10 GMT) on Saturday, with hatch opening two hours later.
Last week, SpaceX beat out two other companies, including Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, to land astronauts on the moon for NASA in three or more years.
They will descend to the lunar surface in Starship, the shiny, bullet-shaped rocketship that Musk is testing in the skies over Texas, with fiery, explosive results.