Crew-1 lifts off on historic International Space Station mission
History was made today as the United States, after a nine-year hiatus, returned to regular crewed space flights from American soil to the International Space Station (ISS) with the launch of the SpaceX Crew-1 mission. At 7:27 pm EST, a Crew Dragon spacecraft, dubbed Resilience, carrying three US astronauts and one Japanese astronaut lifted off atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Today's dramatic night launch marks the second time that a Crew Dragon flew into orbit with astronauts aboard to visit the ISS, but it is the first to do so as part of formal commercial operations to transport crews and supplies to and from the station. Since the Space Shuttle fleet was retired in 2011, the United States has been completely dependent on Russian spacecraft to ferry astronauts to the ISS, though Japan, the European Union, SpaceX, and Northrop Grumman have regularly sent robotic cargo ships.
The crew of Crew-1 consists of Spacecraft Commander, US Air Force Colonel Mike Hopkins; Pilot, US Navy Commander Victor Glover; NASA Mission Specialist Shannon Walker; and JAXA Mission Specialist Soichi Noguchi. This is the first of six SpaceX crew rotational flights that the company is conducting under a NASA commercial partnership contract, with the four astronauts scheduled to remain on the ISS until at least March 2021.
The launch of the Falcon 9 was delayed for one day due to weather conditions on November 14, but the second attempt went off without any major setbacks or delays. The first stage separated about two minutes and 40 seconds into the flight and made a powered landing on a drone recovery ship in the Atlantic at about the nine-minute-and-30-second mark. Meanwhile, the second stage fired as planned and the Crew Dragon separated at about 12 minutes into the flight.
The spacecraft is currently executing a series of orbital maneuvers to rendezvous with the ISS, where it will autonomously dock tomorrow after all safety checks are completed and it is cleared to approach.