Daily US Times: Four astronauts have launched from Florida to the International Space Station (ISS) in a first crew launch from US soil this year. Americans Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough, Japanese flier Akihiko Hoshide and Frenchman Thomas Pesquet rode to orbit in a Dragon capsule launched atop a Falcon 9 rocket.
The astronauts should arrive at the space station on Saturday to begin a six-month tour of duty.
Lift-off occurred pre-dawn at 05:49 EDT.
The new crew’s arrival at the International Space Station will bring the onboard complement at the high-flying outpost to 11 individuals, albeit briefly.
The arriving astronauts are performing what’s called a direct handover to the previous Dragon crew (Mike Hopkins, Shannon Walker, Victor Glover and Soichi Noguchi), who are expected to come home next week.
We are now in the era of commercial launches of American crew to the ISS. Transport of astronauts to and from the ISS is a service the US space agency (Nasa) purchases from SpaceX.
SpaceX runs launch-day proceedings at the Kennedy Space Center, preparing the vehicles and managing the flight to orbit with controllers sited in Florida and at the company’s HQ in Hawthorne.
The Falcon rocket and Dragon capsule, dubbed Endeavour, used on Friday have flown before. The capsule was used previously on the historic Demo-2 mission last May.
That was the mission that saw astronauts from the US launch from US soil for the first time in nine years following the retirement of the space shuttles in 2011.