NASA and SpaceX launched the first operational mission of the crew of the spacecraft Crew Dragon on Sunday, taking four astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) for a six-month stay.
The mission, dubbed “Crew-1”, is the first crew rotation flight of a US commercial spacecraft with astronauts to the ISS.
The spacecraft took off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 7:27 pm EST Sunday (0027 GMT Monday), from Kennedy Space Center’s historic Launch Complex 39A.
NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi are aboard the Resilience capsule.
NASA confirmed the shutdown of the main engine and the separation of the first and second stages of the rocket a few minutes after takeoff. The spacecraft is now on its way to the ISS for its first operational mission.
The Falcon 9’s reusable first stage booster has successfully landed on the “Just Read the Instructions” droneship, stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.
According to NASA, the spacecraft is expected to dock automatically at the space station approximately 27 hours and 32 minutes after launch, around 11:00 PM EST Monday (04:00 GMT Tuesday).
The mission marks the second-ever manned mission for Elon Musk’s private space company SpaceX, following the successful launch and return of NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on the “Demo-2” mission this summer.
That launch, in a capsule called Endeavor, was the first time a manned mission has taken off from the United States to orbit since the retirement of NASA’s space shuttles in 2011.
The return of that capsule also marked the first water landing of astronauts aboard an American spacecraft since the Apollo capsules stopped flying in the 1970s.
Following the “Demo-2” mission, NASA officially certified SpaceX for operational crew missions to and from the space station earlier this month.
NASA completed the signing of the Human Classification Certification Plan on November 10 for SpaceX’s crew transportation system after a thorough review of flight readiness ahead of the “Crew-1” mission.
“Crew-1” is the first of three Dragon flights scheduled for 2020 and 2021, according to SpaceX.