Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
SpaceX Launches 2nd Crew, Regular Station Crew Flights Begin
gvw_ap_news
By Associated Press
Published 3 years ago on
November 16, 2020

Share

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX launched four astronauts to the International Space Station on Sunday on the first full-fledged taxi flight for NASA by a private company.

The Falcon rocket thundered into the night from Kennedy Space Center with three Americans and one Japanese, the second crew to be launched by SpaceX. The Dragon capsule on top — named Resilience by its crew in light of this year’s many challenges, most notably COVID-19 — reached orbit nine minutes later. It is due to reach the space station late Monday and remain there until spring.

“By working together through these difficult times, you’ve inspired the nation, the world, and in no small part the name of this incredible vehicle, Resilience,” Commander Mike Hopkins said right before liftoff.

Once reaching orbit, he radioed: “That was one heck of a ride.”

Sidelined by the coronavirus himself, SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk was forced to monitor the action from afar. He tweeted that he “most likely” had a moderate case of COVID-19. NASA policy at Kennedy Space Center requires anyone testing positive for coronavirus to quarantine and remain isolated.

Sunday’s launch follows by just a few months SpaceX’s two-pilot test flight. It kicks off what NASA hopes will be a long series of crew rotations between the U.S. and the space station, after years of delay. More people means more science research at the orbiting lab, according to officials.

Cheers and applause erupted at SpaceX Mission Control in Hawthorne, California, after the capsule reached orbit and the first-stage booster landed on a floating platform in the Atlantic. Musk tweeted a single red heart.

At Kennedy, he was replaced by SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell. She wouldn’t give Musk’s whereabouts, but said he was “tied in very closely to the launch.”

The Astronauts Went Into Quarantine With Their Families in October

“I have a series of texts to prove it,” Shotwell told reporters.

The flight to the space station — 27 1/2 hours door to door — should be entirely automated, although the crew can take control if needed. SpaceX had to deal with pressure pump spikes once the capsule reached orbit, but quickly resolved the issue.

With COVID-19 still surging, NASA continued the safety precautions put in place for SpaceX’s crew launch in May. The astronauts went into quarantine with their families in October. All launch personnel wore masks, and the number of guests at Kennedy was limited. Even the two astronauts on the first SpaceX crew flight stayed behind at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Vice President Mike Pence, chairman of the National Space Council, joined NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine to watch the launch.

“I didn’t start breathing until about a minute after it took off,” Pence said during a stop at SpaceX Launch Control to congratulate the workers.

Outside the space center gates, spectators crowded into nearby beaches and towns. NASA worried a weekend liftoff — coupled with a dramatic nighttime launch — could lead to a superspreader event. They urged the crowds to wear masks and maintain safe distances. Similar pleas for SpaceX’s first crew launch on May 30 went unheeded.

“In such a crazy year, we have finally some great news,” said Sophia Giallanza, who came from Miami with her husband and son to see their first launch. “So it’s really wonderful.”

The three-men, one-woman crew led by Hopkins, an Air Force colonel, named their capsule Resilience in a nod not only to the pandemic, but also racial injustice and contentious politics. It’s about as diverse as space crews come, including physicist Shannon Walker, Navy Cmdr. Victor Glover, the first Black astronaut on a long-term space station mission, and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi, who became the first person in almost 40 years to launch on three types of spacecraft.

The Four Astronauts Will Be Joining Two Russians and One American

They rode out to the launch pad in Teslas — another Musk company — after exchanging high-fives and hand embraces with their children and spouses, who huddled at the open car windows.

Besides its sleek design and high-tech features, the Dragon capsule is quite spacious — it can carry up to seven people. Previous space capsules have launched with no more than three. The extra room in this newest capsule was used for science experiments and supplies.

The four astronauts will be joining two Russians and one American who flew to the space station last month from Kazakhstan. The orbiting outpost soared over the launch site a mere half-minute before liftoff.

The first-stage booster is expected to be recycled by SpaceX for the next crew launch. That’s currently targeted for the end of March, which would set up the newly launched astronauts for a return to Earth in April.

In the next 15 months, SpaceX should be flying roughly seven Dragon missions for NASA, both crew and cargo, Shotwell said.

While Bridenstine noted it was a beautiful launch, he stressed: “This is a six-month mission and it’s the first of many.”

“When you’re flying into space, there’s always risk and we will always be diligent,” he added.

SpaceX and NASA wanted the booster recovered so badly that they delayed the launch attempt by a day, to give the floating platform time to reach its position in the Atlantic over the weekend following rough seas.

Boeing, NASA’s other contracted crew transporter, is trailing by a year. A repeat of last December’s software-plagued test flight without a crew is off until sometime early next year, with the first astronaut flight of the Starliner capsule not expected before summer.

NASA turned to private companies to haul cargo and crew to the space station, after the shuttle fleet retired in 2011. SpaceX qualified for both. With Kennedy back in astronaut-launching action, NASA can stop buying seats on Russian Soyuz rockets. The last one cost $90 million.

The commander of SpaceX’s first crew, Doug Hurley, noted it’s not just about saving money or easing the training burdens for crews.

“Bottom line: I think it’s just better for us to be flying from the United States if we can do that,” he told The Associated Press last week.

RELATED TOPICS:

DON'T MISS

House to Send Mayorkas Impeachment Articles to the Senate, Forcing a Trial

DON'T MISS

Parker Wins MLB Debut as Nationals Beat Dodgers on Jackie Robinson Day

DON'T MISS

Facing a Republican Revolt, House Speaker Johnson Pushes Ahead on US Aid for Ukraine

DON'T MISS

Giants Rally With 3 Runs in 7th to Beat NL-Worst Marlins

DON'T MISS

Ken Holtzman, MLB’s Winningest Jewish Pitcher Who Won 3 World Series With A’s, Dies at 78

DON'T MISS

Ex-Marine Gets 9 Years in Prison for Firebombing California Planned Parenthood Clinic

DON'T MISS

Fresno Coin Gallery Owner Reveals Why Gold & Silver Are Hot Investments

DON'T MISS

A Fresno Edition of Monopoly? That’s Capitalism at Work, Baby!

DON'T MISS

California Officials Sue Huntington Beach Over Voter ID Law Passed at Polls

DON'T MISS

Indiana Fever Receives No. 1 Overall Draft Pick Caitlin Clark

UP NEXT

Justice Thomas Misses Supreme Court Session Monday With No Explanation

UP NEXT

‘Civil War’ Declares Victory at the Box Office, Toppling ‘Godzilla X Kong’

UP NEXT

Scheffler Turns the Masters Into Another Sunday Yawner With a Dominating Win

UP NEXT

Vegas, US Tour and More Signings: Wrexham Has Plenty of Fun and Work Ahead After Latest Promotion

UP NEXT

NBA Play-in Game Preview: West Games on Tuesday, East Games on Wednesday, Eliminations on Friday

UP NEXT

Ship That Caused Bridge Collapse Had Apparent Electrical Issues While Still Docked, Source Says

UP NEXT

US Shoots Down Iran-Launched Attack Drones as Biden Team Pledges ‘Support’ for Israel

UP NEXT

Dr. Green Thumb’s Is Open. Sweet Flower Debuts Saturday in Fresno Cannabis Rollout.

UP NEXT

Reacher Star Alan Ritchson Calls Donald Trump a ‘Rapist’

UP NEXT

Community Leaders Call for Transparency in Fresno Superintendent Search

Giants Rally With 3 Runs in 7th to Beat NL-Worst Marlins

23 mins ago

Ken Holtzman, MLB’s Winningest Jewish Pitcher Who Won 3 World Series With A’s, Dies at 78

1 hour ago

Ex-Marine Gets 9 Years in Prison for Firebombing California Planned Parenthood Clinic

2 hours ago

Fresno Coin Gallery Owner Reveals Why Gold & Silver Are Hot Investments

3 hours ago

A Fresno Edition of Monopoly? That’s Capitalism at Work, Baby!

17 hours ago

California Officials Sue Huntington Beach Over Voter ID Law Passed at Polls

18 hours ago

Indiana Fever Receives No. 1 Overall Draft Pick Caitlin Clark

18 hours ago

Which Fresno Restaurants Are Best? The Pros Picked These Places.

19 hours ago

Trump’s Historic Hush-Money Trial Gets Underway; 1st Day Ends Without Any Jurors Being Picked

19 hours ago

Fresno-Madera United Way Launches National Search for New CEO

Local /

20 hours ago

House to Send Mayorkas Impeachment Articles to the Senate, Forcing a Trial

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Mike Johnson is sending impeachment charges against Alejandro Mayorkas to the Senate on Tuesday, forcing senators...

4 mins ago

4 mins ago

House to Send Mayorkas Impeachment Articles to the Senate, Forcing a Trial

13 mins ago

Parker Wins MLB Debut as Nationals Beat Dodgers on Jackie Robinson Day

16 mins ago

Facing a Republican Revolt, House Speaker Johnson Pushes Ahead on US Aid for Ukraine

23 mins ago

Giants Rally With 3 Runs in 7th to Beat NL-Worst Marlins

1 hour ago

Ken Holtzman, MLB’s Winningest Jewish Pitcher Who Won 3 World Series With A’s, Dies at 78

2 hours ago

Ex-Marine Gets 9 Years in Prison for Firebombing California Planned Parenthood Clinic

3 hours ago

Fresno Coin Gallery Owner Reveals Why Gold & Silver Are Hot Investments

Fresno Monopoly Edition
17 hours ago

A Fresno Edition of Monopoly? That’s Capitalism at Work, Baby!

MENU

CONNECT WITH US

Search

Send this to a friend