SpaceX Dragon launches, taking crew to ISS
ORLANDO, Fla. — A brand new SpaceX Crew Dragon lifted off from Kennedy Space Center taking another four astronauts to the International Space Station on an early morning launch Wednesday.
The spacecraft named Freedom lifted off from Launch Pad 39-A at 3:52 a.m. atop a Falcon 9 rocket. Its quartet of passengers look to dock with the ISS Wednesday evening around 8:15 p.m.
The three NASA astronauts and one from the European Space Agency donned their spacesuits and made their way to the launch pad just after midnight and strapped into the spacecraft. The crew access arm retracted after 3 a.m. with the capsule’s launch escape system armed.
With less than 10 minutes to fly, SpaceX Mission Control announced, “I wish you a great mission, good luck, godspeed. Time to let Freedom fly.”
“A heartfelt thank you to every one of you who made this possible, Now let Falcon roar and Freedom reign,” said NASA’s Crew-4 Commander Kjell Lindgren.
Also flying up are NASA’s Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins as well as the ESA’s Samantha Cristoforetti of Italy. Both Lindgren and Cristoforetti have each flown one time previously, having ridden up to the station on Soyuz spacecraft, while Hines and Watkins are space rookies. Watkins will be the first Black woman to stay long-term on the ISS.
SpaceX was able to once again land the first-stage booster, being used for the fourth time, on its droneship A Shortfall of Gravitas in the Atlantic, and soon after the Crew Dragon separated from the second stage with a stuffed turtle, in deference to the two rookies’ 2017 astronaut class nickname, floating about the cabin acting as its zero-g indicator.
“From Freedom, we want to say a big thank you to SpaceX, the Commercial Crew Program, and specifically the Falcon 9 team for a great ride,” Lindgren said. “It is a privilege to get to fly this new vehicle, the Crew Dragon Freedom to orbit. Huge thanks to the teams that assembled and prepared her for flight. We’re feeling great and we’re looking forward to the view.”
The launch comes less than two days after the landing of the Axiom Space AX-1 crew with its four private astronaut passengers that splashed down Monday afternoon off the coast of Florida in another Crew Dragon.
“We are really in a golden era of space exploration,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson on Tuesday.