SpaceX launches four astronauts on the ISS


US President-elect Joe Biden hailed the Twitter launch as a “testament to the power of science and what we can achieve by harnessing our innovation, ingenuity and determination,” while President Donald Trump called it “fantastic.”

Astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi on their way to the ISS. Image: @ SpaceX / Twitter

WASHINGTON – On Sunday, four astronauts were successfully launched on the SpaceX Crew Dragon “Resilience” to the International Space Station, the first of what the United States hopes will be many routine missions after a successful test flight in late spring.

Three Americans – Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker – and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi departed at 19:27 (0027 GMT on Monday) from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, ending nearly a decade of international dependence on Russia for his runs. Soyuz rockets.

“This is a great day for the United States of America and a great day for Japan,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said at a post-launch press conference.

Twelve minutes after take-off, at an altitude of 124 miles (200 kilometers) and a speed of 16,800 miles (27,000 kilometers) per hour, the capsule successfully separated from the rocket’s second stage.

“It was an incredible journey,” mission commander Hopkins said from orbit.

SpaceX confirmed it was on orbit to reach the ISS just over 27 hours later, around 11pm Monday night (4am GMT Tuesday), joining two Russians and one American aboard the station, and stay for six months.

There was a problem with the cabin temperature control system, but it was fixed quickly.

“It’s working well,” SpaceX President Glynne Shotwell said at the press conference. But “we will be able to breathe a sigh of relief, in about 26 hours, once we deliver the crew to NASA.”

SpaceX briefly broadcast live images from inside the capsule showing astronauts in their seats, something neither the Russians nor the Americans had done before.

US President-elect Joe Biden hailed the Twitter launch as a “testament to the power of science and what we can achieve by harnessing our innovation, ingenuity and determination,” while President Donald Trump called it “fantastic.”

Vice President Mike Pence, who attended the launch with his wife Karen, called it a “new era in human space exploration in America.”

The Crew Dragon capsule earlier this week became the first spacecraft to be certified by NASA by the Space Shuttle nearly 40 years ago. Its launch vehicle is a reusable SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

At the end of its missions, the Crew Dragon deploys parachutes and then splashes into the water, just like in the Apollo era.

SpaceX is expected to launch two more manned flights to NASA in 2021, including one in the spring, and four cargo resupply missions over the next 15 months.

NASA turned to SpaceX and Boeing after shutting down the checkered Space Shuttle program in 2011, which failed in its main goals of making space travel convenient and safe.

The agency will have spent more than $ 8 billion on the commercial crew program by 2024, with the hope that the private sector can take care of NASA’s needs in “low earth orbit,” so it is free to focus on missions. return to the moon and then to Mars.

SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk in 2002, has overtaken its much older rival Boeing, whose program failed after a failed test of its unmanned Starliner last year.


But SpaceX’s success won’t mean the US will stop hitchhiking Russia altogether, Bridenstine said. The goal is to have an “exchange of places” between American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts.

He also explained that it was necessary in the event that one of the programs was inactive for a period of time.

The reality, however, is that the space ties between the United States and Russia – one of the few bright spots in their bilateral relations – have frayed in recent years.

Russia said it will not be an Artemis partner returning to the moon in 2024, arguing that the NASA-led mission is too US-focused.

Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Russian space agency, has also repeatedly mocked SpaceX’s technology, telling a state news agency that he was not impressed by the Crew Dragon’s “rather rough” water landing and saying that his agency was developing a methane rocket that will be reusable 100 times.

But the fact that a national space agency feels compelled to confront a company undoubtedly validates NASA’s public-private strategy.

The emergence of SpaceX has also deprived Roscosmos of a valuable revenue stream.

The cost of round-trip travel on Russian rockets had risen and stood at about $ 85 million per astronaut, according to estimates last year.


Presidential transitions are always a difficult time for NASA, and Joe Biden’s ascension in January should be no different.

The agency has not yet received from Congress the tens of billions of dollars needed to finalize the Artemis program.

Bridenstine has announced that she will step down, to let the new president set his own goals for space exploration.

So far, Biden hasn’t commented on the 2024 timeline.

Democratic party documents say they support NASA’s aspirations for the Moon and Mars, but also highlight the elevation of the agency’s Earth Sciences division to better understand how climate change is affecting our planet.

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