Florida [US], April 23 (ANI): SpaceX on Friday successfully launched four astronauts en route to the international space station.
According to The Hill, The Falcon 9 rocket was launched at 5:49 a.m local time on Friday morning, from the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The crew is expected to reach the International Space Station Saturday at 5:10 a.m. local time.
Flying in the craft were Shane Kimbrough, Megan McArthur, Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and Thomas Pesquet of France. According to CNN, they are due to spend six months aboard the International Space Station after their Crew Dragon capsule docks early Saturday morning.
CNN further reported that this launch marked the third-ever crewed flight for Elon Musk's company and the first to make use of a previously-flown rocket booster and spacecraft.
The Crew Dragon capsule, named "Endeavour," previously carried NASA's Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the space station in May 2020. Endeavour soared into space atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that was also charred with soot from a previous mission it flew in November 2020, according to the news outlet.
"SpaceX has long made reusability a cornerstone of its business plan, hoping that recovering and refurbishing hardware will drive down the cost of spaceflight. Though the company has re-flown boosters and spacecraft dozens of times on satellite and cargo launches over the past several years, this will mark the first time the company will reuse hardware for a crewed mission," CNN reported.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the flight was the first that NASA allowed SpaceX to use a previously-flown rocket and capsule in another human spaceflight, The Wall Street Journal reported. The rocket was used in the first operation launch in November, while the capsule was used in a test launch in May.
As per CNN, Kimbrough, McArthur, Pesquet, and Hoshide will join seven astronauts already on board the station, four of whom arrived on a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule in November. That will bring the space station's total staff to 11 -- one of the largest crews the International Space Station (ISS) has ever hosted.
"It has been an incredible year for NASA and our Commercial Crew Program, with three crewed launches to the space station since last May," said NASA Acting Administrator Steve Jurczyk in a statement.
"This is another important milestone for NASA, SpaceX, and our international partners at ESA and JAXA, and for the future of scientific research onboard the space station. It will be an exciting moment to see our crews greet one another on station for our first crew handover under the Commercial Crew Program," he added.
The Crew Dragon spacecraft, named Endeavour, will dock autonomously to the forward port of the station's Harmony module about 5:10 a.m. Saturday, April 24.
"I'm really proud of the SpaceX team and honoured to be partnered with NASA and helping JAXA and ESA as well," said Elon Musk, Chief Engineer at SpaceX.
"We're thrilled to be a part of advancing human spaceflight and looking forward to going beyond Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars and helping make humanity a space-faring civilization and a multi-planet species one day," Musk added.
A prime focus of the astronauts' mission will be to study "tissue chips," or "small models of human organs containing multiple cell types that behave much the same as they do in the body" and that NASA hopes will advance the development of drugs and vaccines, according to the space agency.
That work will build on years of studying biological and other scientific phenomena aboard the ISS, where the microgravity environment can give scientists a better fundamental understanding of how something works. (ANI)