A SpaceX Falcon 9 a rocket jumped four astronauts on a trajectory to the International Space Station early Wednesday, adding another crewed launch to the company’s growing list of successful missions.
Liftoff of the 230-foot rocket at 3:52 a.m. EDT from Kennedy Space Center lit up the night sky as it ascended from Kennedy Space Center, taking NASA Bob Hines, Kjell Lindgren, Jessica Watkinsand the European Space Agency Samantha Cristoforetti be in orbit. Pad 39A played host.
“We would like to take this opportunity to express our thanks … for bringing us to the threshold of this incredible launch opportunity to the ISS from Kennedy Space Center,” said Lindgren, the mission commander, after Crew Dragon was left safely. orbit. “Our sincere thanks to each of you who have helped make this possible.”
The fourth mission of NASA’s commercial crew program, named Crew-4, included an all-new Crew Dragon capsule named “Freedom”. It will likely be the last built by SpaceX since the vehicles are designed to be reusable.
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“Let Falcon roar and freedom ring,” Lindgren said.
If schedules hold, the crew of four is expected to dock with the ISS at 8:15 p.m. EDT Wednesday and conclude a 16-hour flight. They will spend about six months on board conducting science experiments, station maintenance and spacewalks.
Crew-4 marks the fifth crewed mission for NASA, which selected SpaceX and Boeing under multibillion-dollar contracts in 2014 to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS. The need arose with the end of the space shuttle program in 2011, leaving NASA dependent on Russia and its Soyuz capsule to access its own space station some 250 miles above Earth.
Including demonstration missions and two private flights with paying customers, SpaceX has launched a total of seven crewed missions since its premiere in May 2020.
Wednesday’s launch also included a drone landing for the 162-foot rocket’s first-stage booster. The fleet’s newest ship, A Shortfall of Gravitas, hosted the landing several hundred miles from the launch site in the North Atlantic Ocean. He is expected to return to Port Canaveral before the end of this weekend.
The mission was also repeatedly postponed as Crew-4 waited for another team of astronauts, Axiom-1, to leave the ISS and make room. Their splash was delayed from last week due to inclement weather in splash zones around Florida.
It may have been because of delays or late-night schedules, but the mission drew small crowds at both Kennedy Space Center and surrounding areas. About 80 scattered spectators watched from the sand across the block and a half from the Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier to the Best Western Cocoa Beach Hotel & Suites, cellphones glowing in the dark.
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Steve and Andrea Fox of Frisco, Texas filmed on their phones as they sat on folding chairs on the beach on the north side of the pier.
“The last time I was here was the last shuttle launch. A long time ago,” Steve Fox said, referring to the last flight of Space Shuttle Atlantis in July 2011. “I worked on the space shuttle program in the 90s. I was in Houston at the Johnson Space Center on mission operations.”
“It was sad when I saw the last one go. But it’s great to see we have the capability again,” he said of SpaceX.
Despite the early morning launch and frenetic pace so far this year, SpaceX is once again on the Eastern Channel’s schedule for another mission flying no earlier than Friday. A Falcon 9 rocket will power the 44th batch of Internet Star Link Cape Canaveral Space Force Station satellites during a window from 5:23 p.m. to 5:44 p.m. EDT.
After liftoff, the rocket will target a landing drone ship.
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Contact Emre Kelly on Twitter, Facebook and instagram to @EmreKelly.