NASA, SpaceX launch astronauts to ISSEuropost
NASA and SpaceX on Sunday launched four astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) from US soil, news wires reported. The mission ends nine years of US reliance on Russia to ferry astronauts into space, dpa noted.
The US space agency hopes the launch will mark the beginning of many regular crew flights to the space station from the United States.
It comes after the historic launch to the ISS in May of astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aboard a SpaceX CrewDragon spacecraft. Their Demo-2 mission represented the first manned launch from US shores in nearly a decade and the first time a private firm, rather than a government space agency, sent people into orbit.
For SpaceX, a private commercial space flight company started by Elon Musk, the trip was the last major demonstration needed before NASA certified its spacecraft system for regular crew flights, also paving the way for possible tourist flights.
The flight, which launched at 7:27 pm (0027 GMT Monday) was originally set for 24 hours earlier but was rescheduled "due to onshore winds and recovery operations," NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said before the launch. Less than an hour after the launch NASA said the spacecraft was "safely in orbit." The Crew-1 mission became the first to use the certified SpaceX Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 rocket.
Aboard the spacecraft are NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, along with Soichi Noguchi from Japan's JAXA space agency, beginning their six-month mission to and from the ISS. They are set to arrive at the space station some 11 hours after launch.
Sidelined by the coronavirus himself, SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk was forced to monitor the action from afar. He tweeted that he “most likely” had a moderate case of COVID-19. NASA policy at Kennedy Space Center requires anyone testing positive for coronavirus to quarantine and remain isolated.