NASA and Elon Musk’s commercial rocket company SpaceX launched a new four-astronaut crew to the International Space Station early Friday, becoming the first crew to be propelled into orbit by a rocket booster recycled from a previous spaceflight.
Endeavour, the company’s Crew Dragon capsule, launched into the darkened pre-dawn sky atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket shortly before 6 a.m. Eastern time (3:30 p.m. IST) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, US.
The crew is scheduled to arrive at the space station, which orbits 250 miles (400 kilometers) above Earth, early on Saturday after a nearly 24-hour flight.
The mission is NASA’s second “operational” space station team to be planned to launch aboard a Dragon Crew capsule since the US resumed flying astronauts into space from US soil last year, after a nine-year long break marks the conclusion of the US space shuttle program in 2011.
It’s also the third crewed flight launched into orbit as part of NASA’s newly formed public-private partnership with SpaceX, the rocket company founded and owned by Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur who also serves as CEO of electric carmaker Tesla.
The first was an out-and-back test mission in May that carried only two astronauts into orbit, followed by SpaceX’s first full-fledged four-person crew in November. Friday’s Crew 2 team includes two NASA astronauts mission commander Shane Kimbrough, 53, and pilot Megan McArthur, 49 — as well as Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, 52, and fellow mission specialist Thomas Pesquet, 43, a European Space Agency engineer from France.