NASA, SpaceX launch first crew rotation mission to space
NASA and SpaceX launched Crew Dragon spacecraft's first operational crew mission on Sunday, carrying 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 lifted off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 7:27 pm EST Sunday (0027 GMT Monday), from historic Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center.
NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, and astronaut Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency are aboard the capsule named Resilience.
NASA confirmed main engine cutoff and separation of the rocket's first and second stages minutes after the lift-off. The spacecraft is now on its way to the ISS for its first operational mission.
Falcon 9's reusable first-stage booster has successfully landed on the "Just Read the Instructions" droneship, stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.
The spacecraft is scheduled to automatically dock to the space station about 27 hours and 32 minutes after the launch, at around 11 pm EST Monday (0400 GMT Tuesday), according to NASA.
The mission marks the second-ever crewed mission for Elon Musk's private space-faring firm SpaceX, after the successful launch and return of NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley in the "Demo-2" mission this summer.
That launch, in a capsule named Endeavour, was the first time that a crewed mission had lifted 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 by 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 Rating Certification Plan on November 10 for SpaceX's crew transportation system after a thorough Flight Readiness Review ahead of the "Crew-1" mission.
"Crew-1" is the first of three scheduled Dragon flights over the course of 2020 and 2021, according to SpaceX.