This is the first full-fledged NASA mission sending a crew into orbit aboard a private spacecraft, and the second time SpaceX’s Dragon capsule has taken astronauts to the space station, after a return test flight in May this year.
The crew, consisting of three American astronauts from NASA and one Japanese astronaut, took off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 7:27 p.m. local time (12:27 GMT), after the weather conditions changed. initially questioned the launch.
It is also the second time in nearly a decade that a manned space flight has taken off from the United States, following the withdrawal of the shuttle program in 2011.
SpaceX will now rotate trips to the ISS on behalf of NASA, acting as a taxi service at the station.
It will take about 27 hours for the crew to reach the ISS, and they will spend about five to six months in Earth orbit.
In a feat of engineering, the Dragon capsule is expected to fly to the ISS entirely on its top, without the crew members needing to control it – unless of course they need to.
After thundering in the sky from Florida and across North Carolina, the ship then crossed the North Atlantic into orbit.
Once Dragon reached the correct altitude, its first stage thruster, known as the Falcon 9, split off and successfully landed on a drone in the Atlantic Ocean called Just Read The Instructions.
On board, Mike Hopkins, the crew chief, said it was “one hell of a ride” shortly after take off, adding: “There were a lot of smiles. ”
Mr Hopkins is joined by physicist Shannon Walker and Navy Commander Victor Glover, who will be the first black astronaut to spend an extended period aboard the ISS.
Commander Glover will also be making his very first trip to the ISS, while the others have already called the station home.
Soichi Noguchi from Japan is also on board and is the third person in history to orbit three different types of spacecraft.
When they reach the ISS, which is scheduled to be around 4 a.m. GMT on Tuesday morning, they will be greeted by NASA’s Kate Rubins and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov.
The Dragon crew named their ship Resilience, as a nod to the challenges 2020 presented.
Tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, who runs SpaceX, has already been revealed he “very likely” has COVID-19, although he reported that he had mixed test results last week.
After the launch, he just tweeted a love heart.
He had tweeted earlier: “Astronaut launch today! “, Adding that despite mild symptoms of coronavirus, he felt” fairly normal “.
US President Donald Trump praised the launch, calling it “awesome”, but added that NASA “was a closed disaster when we took over.”
“Today, it is once again the hottest, most advanced space center in the world, by far! ”
Vice President Mike Pence was at the launch on the east coast of Florida on behalf of the President.
President-elect Joe Biden also tweeted: “Congratulations to NASA and SpaceX on today’s launch.
“It’s a testament to the power of science and what we can accomplish by harnessing our innovation, ingenuity and determination. I join all Americans and the Japanese people in wishing the astronauts the best of luck on their journey. “