Austin, Texas (CNN Business) – The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, carrying four astronauts from three countries, took off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Friday morning, starting with a six-month stay in space.
This launch was Elon Musk’s third manned flight and the first to use a previously launched rocket and spacecraft.
NASA astronauts Shane Kimbro and Megan MacArthur will be accompanied by French astronaut Thomas Pesquet from the European Space Agency, and Akihiko Hoshid from Japan. They are slated to spend six months on board the International Space Station (ISS) after the Crew Dragon capsule docks early Saturday morning.
The Crew Dragon capsule, called Endeavor, previously carried Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley from NASA to the space station in May 2020. Endeavor blasted into space aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, part of which has been detected. November 2020. SpaceX has made reuse a cornerstone of its business plan, hoping that equipment recovery and restoration will reduce the cost of spaceflight.
Although the company has reverted to propulsion engines and spacecraft dozens of times in satellite and cargo launches in recent years, this will be the first time the company has reused the equipment on a manned mission.
After enjoying time at the beach on Thursday and sleeping, the crew at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida were to prepare shortly after midnight. Then they enjoyed carefully curated playlists, one of which featured ringtones from Ozzy Osbourne, Foo Fighters and Metallica, inside Teslas that brought them to the launch pad before transporting them to the launch tower and reaching the launch pad. Walkway.
The astronauts spent hours chained to the capsule by a team of SpaceX aides and conducted a series of communications and security checks. The crew briefly entertained themselves during their checks by playing rounds of rock paper scissors, a fabulous tradition for all astronauts leaving KSC prior to the flight.
Then, just before 6 a.m. local time, a Falcon 9 rocket appeared and propelled the spacecraft by more than 17,000 miles per hour before detaching from the Crowdragon spacecraft.
SpaceX also landed a first-stage missile booster on an offshore platform so it could be used again on a later mission.
Meanwhile, the Crew Dragon is now moving through space. It will continue to fly freely through orbit as it gradually approaches the International Space Station, which is orbiting about 400 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. It is scheduled to dock at the International Space Station around 5 a.m. Miami Time Saturday.
Kimbrough, McArthur, Pesquet and Hoshide will join seven astronauts who were already on board the station, four of whom arrived on the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule in November. This will bring the total number of personnel on the space station to 11, one of the largest crews the International Space Station has ever hosted. But that number will quickly drop to seven when four more astronauts travel home on April 28.
NASA has spent more than a decade working to increase the staffing of the 21-year-old space station, after the retirement of the Space Shuttle program in 2011 that left the Russian Soyuz spacecraft as the only option to transport astronauts to and from international space. Station. The United States was paying Russia up to $ 90 million per seat for these flights.
For years, SpaceX has worked under a $ 2.6 billion fixed-price contract to develop its Crew Dragon spacecraft as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew program, which for the first time in space agency history delivered the build and test mission. private sector. SpaceX made history last May with the first manned launch of a Crew Dragon crew on a mission called Demo-2, which brought NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken to the space station for four months. The second manned SpaceX mission took off in November.
(Boeing is under a similar contract to develop its own capsule for the program, called the Starliner, although it is still in the testing phase.)
The main focus of the astronauts’ mission will be the study of “tissue chips,” or “small models of human organs that contain multiple types of cells that behave very similar to how they function in the body” that NASA hopes to develop. Medicines and vaccines, according to the space agency. This work will build on years of studying biological and other scientific phenomena aboard the International Space Station, as the microgravity environment can give scientists a better basic understanding of how something works.
MacArthur is a veteran of the space shuttle and is married to Behnken, who co-led the historic Demo-2 mission, this past May. MacArthur told reporters over the weekend that he was able to gain “years of experience” with the Crew Dragon vehicle while Behnken was working alongside SpaceX during the Crew Dragon development process.
“I really learned from him many years along the way,” said MacArthur, who will lead the Crew-2 mission and hold a Ph.D. in oceanography.
He will join MacArthur Kempra of NASA, a retired Army colonel and veteran on two previous space station missions. His fellow crew members Hoshide from Japan and Biscuit from France also have previous spaceflight experience.
Pesquet said he appreciates the opportunity to fly aboard the refurbished booster rocket that helps lift the capsule into space. Worn equipment still covered in soot from his previous trips and fellow crew members allowed him to “draw our initials” on the side of the vehicle.
“I don’t know if [la escritura] It will last, but I found it really cool, ”he said.