CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Four astronauts launched aboard a reusable SpaceX Crew Dragon early Friday from America’s Space Coast to begin a nearly six month stay aboard the International Space Station.
This SpaceX Crew-2 mission is the second operational commercial crewed space launch. It also marks the third time Americans have launched into space from the U.S. in last 11 months.
Riding a top a Falcon 9 rocket, the Crew Dragon Endeavour lifted off at 5:49:02 a.m. EDT, from the Kennedy Space Center. The Falcon 9’s instantaneous launch time occurred as the space station flew 258 miles above the Indian Ocean.
The candle stick rocket soared up the east coast of the United States. Nearly three minutes after launch, Falcon’s spent first stage separated and the second stage immediately took over.
“I’m just so proud of the team, and what this team was able to accomplish,” Acting NASA administrator Steve Jurczyk said from the space center.
Endeavour’s crew includes NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur who will serve as Dragon’s commander and pilot. Japan’s Akihiko Hoshide and European astronaut Thomas Pesquet will round out the four person crew.
Nine minutes following launch, Endeavour successfully reached orbit. At the same time, the Falcon’s first stage made a pin point landing on a recovery platform off the coast of South Carolina.
The booster was last flown in November, placing four of the current seven station crew members into orbit. This mission also marks Endeavour’s second journey into space.
Commander Kimbrough and pilot McArthur will steer Endeavour during a one day flight to the orbiting laboratory. Based on an on time launch, Endeavour’s crew is scheduled to dock to the station on Saturday at about 5:10 a.m.
Following docking, the crew will take two hours to prepare the hatches between Crew Dragon and the station for opening. The crew is scheduled to live and work aboard the orbiting laboratory.
This will mark the first time that two commercial crew spacecraft are docked to the space station. The Crew Dragon Resilience has been docked with the outpost for nearly six months.
One week following Endeavour’s docking, Resilience will undock from the Harmony node to bring her crew home. Meanwhile, Endeavour and her crew will stay aboard the space station until around November 1.
(Charles A Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via social media @Military_Flight.)