April 23, 2024

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Four astronauts strapped into a Crew Dragon capsule vaulted off their pad

Astronauts Shane Kimbrough, Megan McArthur, Akihiko Hoshide and Thomas Pesquet took flight at 5:49 a.m. on Crew-2, a NASA-purchased mission part of the human spaceflight-focused Commercial Crew Program. The team will spend about a day in the capsule named Endeavour before docking with the orbiting outpost at 5:10 a.m. Saturday.

Four astronauts strapped into a Crew Dragon capsule vaulted off their pad at Kennedy Space Center early Friday, kicking off NASA and SpaceX’s second full-duration mission to the International Space Station.

“Our crew is flying astronauts from NASA, ESA, and JAXA, which hasn’t happened in over 20 years,” mission commander Kimbrough said just before liftoff, referring to the European and Japanese space agencies. “We’re excited to represent our nations, agencies, and all of humanity. Off the Earth and for the Earth, Endeavour is ready to go.”

The Falcon 9 rocket was previously flown. Though SpaceX anticipates flying boosters 10-plus times with minor work between satellite launches, a maximum of five are expected for crewed missions due to more stringent safety requirements.

Crew Dragon Endeavour first flew astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the space statioin May 2020 on Demo-2, the first crewed flight since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011. It just so happens that Behnken is McArthur’s husband, meaning Endeavour so far has been entrusted with a wife-and-husband duo over two separate missions.

Florida’s next launch is also slated for April 28. Yet another Falcon 9 rocket will boost SpaceX’s 25th batch of Starlink internet satellites to low-Earth orbit, this time from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station’s Launch Complex 40. Liftoff is set for a not-yet-released time between 10:30 p.m. and 1 a.m. on the following day.