The SpaceX Crew-1 mission has successfully launched from Kennedy Space Centre, marking the beginning of the company’s regular operations to transfer astronauts to space.
With three astronauts from NASA and one from Japan’s JAXA lifting off onboard the Falcon 9 rocket, Crew-1 is the second manned flight for Elon Musk’s private space company. A demonstration flight in May saw US astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken briefly deployed to the International Space Station in a Crew Dragon capsule, then returned to Earth. Crew-1 now becomes the first operational flight under SpaceX’s $3bn contract with NASA to regularly taxi astronauts to and from the ISS.
In the minutes following the launch, the manned Dragon spacecraft separated from the Falcon 9, with the rocket then landing cleanly on SpaceX’s drone ship in the Atlantic. The crewed module is expected to dock autonomously to the forward port of the ISS’s Harmony module on Tuesday at around 4am GMT.
“NASA is delivering on its commitment to the American people and our international partners to provide safe, reliable, and cost-effective missions to the International Space Station using American private industry,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
“This is an important mission for NASA, SpaceX and our partners at JAXA, and we look forward to watching this crew arrive at station to carry on our partnership for all of humanity.”
Crew-1 is the first of six planned missions that SpaceX will operate alongside NASA as part of the latter’s Commercial Crew Programme, of which Boeing is also a participant. It is the first time an international crew of four astronauts has launched on an American commercial spacecraft, and it will also be the first time the space station’s long-duration crew will expand from six to seven, allowing for substantially more science to be carried out onboard.
Among the science and research investigations that Crew-1 will support during its six-month mission are a study using chips with tissue that mimics the structure and function of human organs to understand the role of microgravity on human health and diseases, growing radishes in different types of light and soils as part of ongoing efforts to produce food in space, and testing a new system to remove heat from NASA’s next-generation spacesuit, the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU).
Continuing coverage of the Crew-1 mission can be viewed here.