Over the weekend, SpaceX made history by successfully launching its first operational flight with four astronauts in the commercially-developed Crew Dragon. The launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Sunday marked the beginning of a 27-hour journey to the International Space Station (ISS). It was also SpaceX’s first flight with an international crew, and its first regularly scheduled flight.
The crew is manned by NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, along with Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi. The rocket is scheduled to dock with the space station November 16 at midnight EST. If everything goes smoothly, the flight will also be completed autonomously, without the crew needing to touch the Crew Dragon’s touchscreens.
The Crew-1 mission marks a decade of work between SpaceX and NASA, and their goal to build a spaceship that can get humans to the ISS and back to Earth safely. It also marks another huge milestone for NASA: to provide an independent means for astronauts to launch from the United States, rather than from Kazakhstan. It’s a big win, given the agency’s space shuttle retirement in 2011. NASA will still work with Russia to maintain the ISS, but now SpaceX represents a second option for putting humans in space.
Yesterday’s manned launch was not SpaceX’s first, however. It sent two astronauts to the International Space Station back in May, and was the first private company to put astronauts into orbit. SpaceX is also focused on commercial spaceflight, and its Crew Dragon spaceship is scheduled to take actor Tom Cruise on a commercial mission in about a year.
via Ars Technica