Watch: NASA and SpaceX launched humans into orbit aboard Crew Dragon [videos]

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule carrying two veteran NASA astronauts lifted off on Saturday 30 May 2020 on a record-breaking crewed flight into space.

“This has been a long time coming. It’s been nine years since we launched American astronauts, from American soil. And now it’s done.”

Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator

Nasa and SpaceX’s ‘Launch America’ mission

“We have lift-off!”

The two-stage Falcon 9 rocket – with astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard – blasted off smoothly from Launch Pad 39A at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.

Cheers went around the mission control as the first-stage booster of Falcon 9 separated cleanly and landed upright on the Of Course I Still Love You drone ship, off the Atlantic coast.

The second stage also separated smoothly, sending the astronauts in the Crew Dragon capsule on their way to the International Space Station (ISS), which is currently in orbit 450 kilometres above Earth.

Behnken and Hurley will arrive at the ISS in approximately 19 hours from the time of lift-off.

Watch: Crew Dragon lift-off

Docking at the International Space Station

According to information released by SpaceX, the crew and mission control will “verify the spacecraft is performing as intended by testing the environmental control and life support systems”.

This will include manoeuvring thrusters and thermal control systems, among other things. Crew Dragon will perform a series of phasing manoeuvres to position itself for rendezvous and docking with the ISS.

Even though the Crew Dragon capsule is designed to do this autonomously, Behnken, Hurley and the crew on the ISS will monitor the approach and dock. If needed, they will take control of the spacecraft.

Watch: Phase burn

Returning to Earth

Once the supplies have been offloaded, Crew Dragon will autonomously undock – with Behnken and Hurley still onboard – and depart the Space Station for its return trip.

“Upon splashdown just off Florida’s Atlantic Coast, Dragon and the astronauts will be quickly recovered by SpaceX’s Go Navigator recovery vessel and returned to Cape Canaveral”.

SpaceX

spacex nasa
Crew Dragon capsule ahead of the launch waiting for its moment to shine. Image via Twitter: @SpaceX

Looking to the future

The successful launch is a milestone for Elon Musk as it represents the reusable rockets engineered by SpaceX to make spaceflight less costly and more frequent.

It also marks the first time that a commercially-developed, privately-owned spacecraft carries American astronauts into orbit. NASA hasn’t launched astronauts into space aboard a brand new space vehicle in more than 40 years.

“I hope this moment in time is an opportunity for everyone to reflect on humanity and what we can achieve when we work together. And I hope it inspires a child to become the next Elon Musk”.

Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator

NASA
Image via SpaceX

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