Tonight (Sunday, November 15, 2020) NASA and SpaceX reached another historic milestone. Six months after astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley were successfully dispatched to the ISS on the Cargo-2 mission, the US demonstrated the restoration of domestic launchability by putting the fully occupied Crew Dragon spacecraft (Resilience) on an operational mission sent to the ISS.
The spacecraft took off at 7:27 p.m. EST (4:27 p.m. PST) on a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Not only was this the first spacecraft mission flight under NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP), it was also the first time a crewed mission had been launched from American soil since the space shuttle was withdrawn from service in 2011.
The crew of this mission consists of four astronauts from NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). These include NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins (Commander), pilot Victor Glover, astronaut Shannon Walker and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi. With the exception of Glover, all crew members visited the ISS as part of an expedition crew.
In honor of all families and people affected by the global pandemic, SpaceX has named the Crew Dragon that would bring the four astronauts to ISS Resilience. For the previous flight with a Crew Dragon (Demo-2), the astronauts Behnken and Hurley named their spaceship Endeavor after the space shuttle that both astronauts took on their maiden flight into space.
While Demo-2 was the first manned space flight to be launched from US soil since the last space shuttle mission in 2011 (STS-135), Crew-1 is the first operational mission that astronauts are allowed to stay for an extended period of time promoted to the ISS. Once they arrive, they will join the three crew members already there – Sergei Ryzhikov (Commander), Sergey Kud-Sverchkov (Flight Engineer 1) and Kathleen Rubins (Flight Engineer 2) – to form ISS Expedition 64.
Assuming everything goes according to schedule and the regular ISS is adhered to, Ryzhikov, Kud-Sverchkov and Rubins will leave the ISS in April 2021 and the astronauts of Crew 1 will leave to begin Expedition 65.
The entire event was broadcast live on NASA TV and the video of the launch can be viewed above. SpaceX tweeted all major developments live, signaling that the launch occurred at 4:30 p.m. PST (7:30 p.m. EST), that the second stage completed its burn seven minutes later, and that the spacecraft is separating from the second stage has and was en route to the ISS eleven minutes after takeoff.
SpaceX also reported the successful retrieval of the booster for the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket, which landed on board its Just Read the Instructions drone ship 11 minutes after launch. NASA also announced the success of the launch on Twitter, stating:
“The resilience increases. The Crew 1 mission launched on a Falcon 9 rocket from @NASAKennedy at 7:27 p.m. ET and is en route to @Space_Station. #LaunchAmerica "
President-elect Joe Biden took to Twitter shortly after launch to congratulate NASA and SpaceX on their historic achievement:
“Congratulations to NASA and SpaceX on their launch today. It's a testament to the power of science and what we can achieve when we use our innovation, ingenuity, and determination. I wish all Americans and the people of Japan that the astronauts are very lucky on their journey. "
The astronauts of Mission Crew-1 pose with their spaceship and its Falcon 9 rocket and will be rolled out onto the pad on November 9th at the Kennedy Space Center. Photo credit: NASA / Joel Kowsky
Vice President Mike Pence followed suit at 6:12 p.m. PST (9:12 AM EST) and tweeted:
Today America celebrates another historic milestone with the launch of @SpaceX's @SpaceX Crew-1: the first operational mission of NASA's commercial crew program to @Space_Station and only for the second time in nearly 10 years as American astronauts from American soil took off into space!
NASA has just started its press conference following its launch on NASA television, which began at 9:30 p.m. EST (6:30 p.m. PST) and has comments from Jim Bridenstine (NASA administrator), Kathy Lueders (AA for Human Exploration and Operations ) contains. , Hiroshi Sasaki (VP and General Manager of JAXA), Steve Dickson (FAA Administrator) and Gwynne Shotwell (SpaceX President and COO)
You can also find out about the Mission Highlights by checking out NASA Live!
Further reading: NASA