CAP CAN CANERERAL, Fla. (AP) – SpaceX on Sunday launched four astronauts at the International Space Station on the first full taxi flight to NASA by a private company.
The Falcon rocket was thrown from the Kennedy Space Center at night with three Americans and a Japanese, the second crew to be launched by SpaceX. The Dragon capsule on top – named Resilience by its crew in light of the many challenges this year, most notably COVID-19 – reached orbit nine minutes later. It is due to reach the space station late Monday and stay there until spring.
Commander Mike Hopkins said just before liftoff, “By working together in these difficult times, you have not inspired any incredible vehicle, the Resilience, in the name of the nation, the world, and this incredible vehicle.”
Once he arrived in class, he said: “It was a heck of a ride.”
Elon Musk, the founder and chief executive of SpaceX, was forced by Coronovirus to remotely monitor the action. He tweeted that he “most likely” had a moderate case of COVID-19. NASA policy at the Kennedy Space Center requires positive testing to quarantine and isolate coronoviruses.
Sunday’s launch, just a few months after SpaceX’s two-pilot test flight. It closes that NASA expects that after a delay of years there will be a long series of crew rotations between the US and the space station. More people mean more science research in the orbiting laboratory, according to officials.
Cheers and applause erupted at SpaceX Mission Control in Hawthorne, California, after the capsule reached orbit and the first stage booster landed on a floating platform across the Atlantic. Musk tweeted a red heart.
Flight to the space station – the door for 27 1/2 hours – must be fully automated, although the crew can keep control when needed. SpaceX had to deal with the pressure pump spikes after the capsule reached the orbit, but resolved the issue.
With COVID-19 still on the rise, NASA took safety precautions to launch the SpaceX crew in May. The astronauts went into quarantine with their families in October. All launch personnel wore masks, and Kennedy’s number of guests was limited. Even on the first SpaceX crew flight, two astronauts remained behind at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
National Space Council Chairman Vice President Mike Pence traveled from Washington and joined the launch along with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstein.
“I didn’t start breathing until it stopped,” Pence said while pausing to greet workers at SpaceX Launch Control.
Outside the gates of the space center, onlookers crowded nearby beaches and towns.
NASA worries the weekend’s ups and downs – coupled with a dramatic nighttime projection – could lead to a superspeeder event. He urged the crowd to wear masks and maintain a safe distance. Similar arguments for the launch of SpaceX’s first crew on 30 May went unheard.
A three-man, one-woman crew led by Hopkins, an Air Force colonel, named his capsule Resilience not only as an epidemic, but also with racial injustice and controversial politics. It comes as diverse as the space crew, including physicist Shannon Walker, Navy CMRR. Victor Glover, the first black astronaut on a long-term space station mission, and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi, who became the first person in nearly 40 years to launch on three types of spacecraft.
He rode the launch pad at another musk company – Teslas, who sat on open car windows after high-wives and hand-hugs with his children and spouse. Musk was replaced by SpaceX President Gwenne Shotwell in farewell to the astronauts.
In addition to its sleek design and high-tech features, the Dragon capsule is quite spacious – it can carry up to seven people. The rear space capsule is launched with no more than three. Additional room in the capsule was used for science experiments and supplies.
Four astronauts will join two Russians and one American, who flew to the space station from Kazakhstan last month. The space station reached the launch site half a minute before liftoff.
The first-stage boosters are expected to be recycled by SpaceX for the next crew launch. It is currently targeted for the end of March, which will install newly launched astronauts to return to Earth in April. SpaceX will launch yet another crew in late summer or early fall.
SpaceX and NASA wanted the boosters to be so badly recovered that they delayed the launch attempt by one day, allowing the floating platform time after the bumpy seas to reach their position in the Atlantic.
Boeing, NASA’s other contracted crew transporter, is lagging behind by a year. The repeat of last December’s software-obsessed test flight without a crew is closed until early next year, with the first astronaut flight of the Starliner capsule not expected before summer.
After the shuttle fleet that retired in 2011, NASA turned to private companies for cargo and crew for the space station. SpaceX qualified for both. With Kennedy in astronaut-launch action, NASA may stop buying seats on Russian Soyuz rockets. The previous one cost $ 90 million.
SpaceX’s first crew commander, Doug Hurley, said it’s not just about saving money or reducing the crew’s training burden.
“Bottom line: I think it’s better for us to fly from the United States if we can do that,” he told the Associated Press last week.
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