Four astronauts were successfully launched on the SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience to the International Space Station on Sunday, the first of what the US hopes will be many routine missions following a successful test flight in late spring.
Three Americans, Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi blasted off at 7:27pm (5:57am Monday IST) from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, thus ending almost a decade of international reliance on Russia for rides on its Soyuz rockets.
US President-elect Joe Biden hailed the launch on Twitter as a “testament to the power of science and what we can accomplish by harnessing our innovation, ingenuity, and determination,” while President Donald Trump called it “great.”
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 people of Japan in wishing the astronauts Godspeed on their journey.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) November 16, 2020
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 16, 2020
Vice President Mike Pence, who attended the launch with his wife Karen, called it a “new era in human space exploration in America.”
The capsule successfully separated from the second stage of the rocket and, according to a SpaceX team member speaking over radio, had achieved “nominal orbit insertion.”
That means the capsule is currently on the right trajectory to reach the ISS.
The crew will dock at their destination at around 11:00 pm Monday night (9:30am Tuesday IST), joining two Russians and one American onboard the station, and stay for six months.
In May, SpaceX completed a demonstration mission showing it could take astronauts to the ISS and bring them back safely, a landmark development allowing the US to begin travelling to the space station under its own power once more.
It is a capsule, similar in shape to the spacecraft that preceded Space Shuttle, and its launch vehicle is a reusable SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.