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SpaceX launched its third crew of astronauts to the International Space Station early Friday morning, reusing a Crew Dragon space capsule to fly humans for the first time.
The mission, dubbed Crew-2, is the latest flight under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, and will add four more astronauts to the orbital space station.
A used Falcon 9 rocket, last flown for SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission last year, lifted off at 5:49AM ET from Cape Canaveral, Florida carrying Endeavor, the same Crew Dragon capsule that first launched SpaceX’s debut astronaut mission nearly one year ago.
For this flight, the Endeavor capsule carried four astronauts from three different countries — SpaceX’s most diverse NASA-managed crew yet.
Sunlight beamed into the windows of Crew Dragon Endeavor as it separated from its Falcon 9 second stage booster roughly 12 minutes after the pre-dawn liftoff, prompting cheers and applause from engineers on a live video feed in SpaceX’s mission control.
“Thanks for flying our first flight-proven, crewed Falcon 9,” mission control said to Endeavor, confirming a successful arrival in orbit.
Kimbrough, McArthur, Hoshide and Pesquet will spend six months in space and join seven astronauts already aboard the space station, an orbital science laboratory flying more than 17,000 miles per hour in orbit roughly 250 miles above Earth.
Two days after the crew’s arrival, four other astronauts from SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission, which launched to the ISS November 15 last year, will board a separate Crew Dragon capsule and return to Earth to cap their own six-month stay.
Crew-2 marks SpaceX’s third astronaut mission under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, the agency’s public-private initiative to revive its human spaceflight capabilities after a nearly 10-year dependence on Russian rockets.
Accompanied by two Russian cosmonauts and NASA’s Mark Vande Hei, who all launched on a Russian Soyuz rocket on April 9th, Crew-2’s stay aboard the ISS will make for an 7-person crew in space for the next several months.