Lift off: NASA and SpaceX successfully launch Crew-2 to ISS

23 Apr 2021

SpaceX Falcon 9. Image: Joel Kowsky/NASA

The mission is crewed by four astronauts and the journey is expected to take almost 24 hours.

“We wish you a great mission, good luck, and enjoy the ride.”

Those were the words of the SpaceX team speaking to the Crew-2 mission minutes before successful lift-off this morning (23 April).

The launch took place at 5.49am ET (9.49am UTC) from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and will bring the four-astronaut team to the International Space Station (ISS). The journey will take almost 24 hours to complete.

The spacecraft, which comprises the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket, was originally due to launch yesterday but was delayed due to weather.

The mission marks the third crewed flight launched to into orbit under NASA’s partnership with private space company SpaceX, which is owned by Elon Musk.

Last year, SpaceX conducted a demonstration mission to the ISS with two NASA astronauts, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.

In November 2020, NASA then sent four astronauts to the ISS in the first operational Dragon crew mission. They are expected to fly home on 28 April.

Today’s successful launch also marks the first time a crew has been propelled into orbit by a recycled rocket and capsule.

Both the Dragon capsule and Falcon rocket for this mission have soared once before. The Dragon capsule launched the first SpaceX crew last May, while the rocket hoisted the second set of astronauts, who are still at the space station.

Each capsule is designed to launch at least five times with a crew. SpaceX and NASA are in the process of assessing how many times a Falcon can safely launch astronauts.

Today’s Crew-2 team consists of NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet.

Interestingly, McArthur, who is married to Behnken, was sitting in the same seat in the same capsule as her husband did during the test flight last year.

Once aboard the ISS, the Crew-2 astronauts will spend time on research in medical technology, human health and materials to benefit life on Earth.

Today’s SpaceX launch rounds off a week of historic firsts for NASA, following the first flight of the Mars Ingenuity helicopter. The NASA Perseverance rover also experienced a historic moment, generating oxygen on Mars for the first time.

Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic