SpaceX launched Crew-2 astronauts on a 24-hour voyage to the International Space Station (ISS) atop a previously-flown Crew Dragon this morning. The crew of four drove to Launch Complex-39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, around three hours ahead of liftoff aboard Tesla Model X electric vehicles featuring NASA’s retro logo. As they arrived, they took an elevator at the launch tower, up 265-feet, and walked through the Crew Access Arm towards the Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft, sitting atop a previously-flown Falcon 9 rocket.
🎶 What would be on your playlist if you were heading out to the launch pad?@astro_kimbrough, @Astro_Megan, @Aki_Hoshide and @Thom_astro are currently inside these vehicles making their way to Launch Complex 39A.— NASA's Kennedy Space Center (@NASAKennedy) April 23, 2021
📸: https://t.co/A9sbAYbCl3 pic.twitter.com/i0gk3wPRQJ
📍 The astronauts have made it to their last stop prior to leaving Earth — Launch Complex 39A!— NASA Commercial Crew (@Commercial_Crew) April 23, 2021
Next, they will be strapped inside Crew Dragon Endeavour prior to liftoff at 5:49 a.m. ET.
One step closer ➡️ https://t.co/Ct94x1Ai8c pic.twitter.com/KpZSzxO13P
The rocket ignited the dark pre-dawn sky as it lifted off at 5:49 a.m. EDT from Pad 39A propelling Endeavour to orbit carrying NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Thomas Pesquet. It is SpaceX’s third crewed flight and second operational mission of six that are planned as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “Off the Earth, for the Earth, Endeavour is ready to go,” NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough, the mission’s spacecraft commander, told SpaceX mission control in Hawthorne, California minutes before lifting off. “We had an incredible launch,” Kimbrough said as the spacecraft orbited our planet over South Africa, “That was pretty special to see the sunlight coming in shortly after liftoff.” McArthur shared that “the ride was really smooth … We couldn’t have asked for anything better."
Liftoff of Falcon 9 and Dragon! pic.twitter.com/g6Oi8qwU2Y— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 23, 2021
The astronauts’ voyage to the orbiting laboratory will be around 24-hours, they are set to arrive by Saturday, April 24. Crew Dragon Endeavour, is scheduled to dock autonomously to the Space Station’s Harmony module at 5:10 a.m. EDT. It is the first time SpaceX launches a crew aboard a previously-flown spacecraft and rocket booster. The Falcon 9 and Endeavour also lifted off in May last year, carrying NASA astronauts Robert ‘Bob’ Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the ISS during SpaceX's first-ever crewed mission (Demo-2). Astronaut Behnken is astronaut McArthur's husband, she is flying aboard the same spacecraft. Upon arrival, Crew-2 will be welcomed by Crew-1 astronauts, that have been working at the ISS Lab for the past six months. It will also be the first time SpaceX has two crews in space simultaneously. Crew-1 is scheduled to return to Earth on April 28. You can watch ongoing coverage of all events Live in the video linked at the end of this article.
Approximately nine minutes after propelling Crew-2 to orbit, the Falcon 9 rocket’s first-stage booster returned from space, it landed on the ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ autonomous droneship in the Atlantic Ocean – marking SpaceX’s 80th landing of an orbital class rocket. During a press conference today, SpaceX founder Elon Musk talked about the importance of reusing spacecraft and rockets to reduce the cost of spaceflight. “There does not seem to be any obvious limit to the reusability of the vehicle… we do intend to fly Falcon 9 booster until we see some kind of a failure […],” he said, video below.
“It has been an incredible year for NASA and our Commercial Crew Program, with three crewed launches to the space station since last May,” said NASA Acting Administrator Steve Jurczyk. “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.”
“I’m really proud of the SpaceX team and honored to be partnered with NASA and helping JAXA and ESA as well,” Musk said. “We’re thrilled to be a part of advancing human spaceflight and looking forward to going beyond Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars and helping make humanity a space-faring civilization and a multi-planet species one day.”
“I am extremely honored to witness the successful launch today. It is my utmost pleasure and also for Japan that Japanese astronauts Soichi Noguchi and Aki Hoshide boarded the operational spacecraft of Crew Dragon twice in a row,” said Hiroshi Sasaki, Vice President for Human Spaceflight and Space Exploration. “I believe this is brought by the many years of close cooperation cultivated amongst the international partners, especially between U.S. and Japan through the ISS program. I hope Aki will play an integral role as the second Japanese ISS commander along with his colleague astronauts, creating fruitful outcomes and expanding the human frontier to the Lunar Gateway, the surface of the Moon and even beyond.”
"This is a thrilling time for human spaceflight and this new success of the Commercial Crew Program embodies it – congratulations once again to NASA and SpaceX,” said David Parker, director of human and robotic exploration at ESA. “Starting with astronaut Thomas Pesquet, ESA is delighted to join this new space station chapter, paving the way to the future of exploration side by side with diverse partners. Six months of excellent science and state-of-the-art technology demonstrations now await him, and we know he cannot wait to start working."
NASA TV SCHEDULE (Eastern Time)
April 24, Saturday
Continuous coverage of the SpaceX Crew Dragon Crew-2 mission through docking, hatch opening and the welcoming ceremony. Docking on April 24 scheduled at 5:10 a.m. EDT; hatch opening scheduled at 7:15 a.m. EDT; welcoming ceremony scheduled at 7:45 a.m. EDT.
WATCH IT LIVE!
Featured Image Source: NASA & SpaceX
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.