At exactly 7:27 p.m. ET on Sunday, a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster came to life at Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A, its engines lighting up the Florida coast. The perfect launch of the gum drop-shaped Crew Dragon spacecraft – dubbed Resilience – marked.
It’s not since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011 that NASA has sent humans into orbit from US soil on an operational mission. The launch of this particular mission has been delayed, postponed and postponed several times – the original schedule called for a launch date of November 2016. Four years, Resilience is now docked to the International Space Station.
“By working together through these trying times, you have inspired the nation, the world and, in large part, the name of this incredible vehicle, Resilience,” said Michael Hopkins, Crew-1 spacecraft commander, before launch.
The docking was scheduled to take place at 8:00 p.m. PT and was essentially on time. However, shadows obscured the view of the space station crew, and the astronauts decided to make a short wait 20 meters from the docking adapter. After waiting for “sunset” and the shadows to recede, Resilience made contact with the ISS and officially performed a “soft capture” at 8:01 p.m. PT and docked at around 8:15 p.m. PT.
“This is a new era of operational flights to the International Space Station from the coast of Florida,” Hopkins said upon docking.
The Crew Dragon carried an international assembly of astronauts: Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker of NASA, as well as Soichi Noguchi of the Japanese space agency JAXA. After a handful of security checks and a welcoming ceremony in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, the team will get to work on science experiments and maintenance. They are expected to spend the next six months on the station. The Dragon is capable of autonomy and the Dragon is supposed to stay at the station for 210 days, according to NASA requirements.
The launch was celebrated by representatives of NASA and SpaceX at a post-launch conference on Sunday. “This is a great day for the United States of America and a great day for Japan,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “The big milestone here is that we are now moving away from development and testing and into operational flights. ”
“I look forward to embracing the new era and moving into the future together,” said Hiroshi Sasaki, vice president of JAXA.
Less than 10 minutes after launch, the first Falcon 9 booster landed safely on the Just Read The Instructions droneship stationed in the Atlantic. This was the first time the reusable rocket has been used in a mission and the plan is to reuse it on the Crew Dragon’s next operational flight, SpaceX’s Crew-2.
The launch of Crew-2 is scheduled for March 2021 and will once again carry four astronauts. It will reuse the Crew Dragon Endeavor, which was first used in the SpaceX Demo-2 mission in May.
About 12 minutes later, Resilience broke away from Stage Two and got underway.
This isn’t the first time that a Falcon 9 rocket has sent a Crew Dragon spacecraft into space. In May, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley were. But it was a test mission, the last checkbox before NASA’s commercial crew program officially began operations.
Crew-1 signals the return of operational flights to American soil and the first flight in the PCC. Until recently, NASA bought flights on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Flying SpaceX, NASA will save around $ 25 million per seat.
NASA also hired Boeing to deliver astronauts to the ISS, butduring its first unequipped demo launch.
Update November 17th: added anchor success, title change