Published: Mon, January 25, 2021
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Elon Musk's SpaceX launches 2nd crew, regular station crew flights begin

Elon Musk's SpaceX launches 2nd crew, regular station crew flights begin

If SpaceX's Crew-1 Crew Dragon and CRS-21 Cargo Dragon launches are successful, the private USA company will effectively become the backbone of U.S. spaceflight, nearly singlehandedly reasserting the country's position as a competitive space power. Four months after that, Cargo Dragon successfully berthed with the ISS for the second time as part of SpaceX's first NASA Commercial Resupply Services mission (CRS-1), beginning what would come to be an extraordinarily successful series of 19 operational space station resupply runs, delivering a bit less than 45 metric tons (~100,000 lb) total.

Onboard the Dragon are NASA's astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

The crewed flight is the second for SpaceX's Dragon capsule and the first since NASA officially certified the small spacecraft to carry people. 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 system is created to work in a completely automated way, which means that it requires no action on the part of the crew on board from launch all the way through its docking with the ISS.

The Falcon 9 booster safely landed in the Atlantic Ocean on the drone ship "Just Read the Directions" after takeoff. Late Friday afternoon, the mission team chose to delay the launch by a day due to the expected weather conditions during Saturday's launch window. At 7:27 pm EST, a Crew Dragon spacecraft, dubbed Resilience, carrying three United States astronauts and one Japanese astronaut lifted off atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

They rode out to the launch pad in vehicles made by Tesla - another Musk company - after exchanging high-fives and hand embraces with their children and spouses, who huddled at the open auto windows. "We are humbled and we are excited to be a part of this great expedition". Musk was replaced by SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell in bidding the astronauts farewell. The plan is for the booster to be re-used on the next crew flight of SpaceX, Crew-2. SpaceX would launch yet another crew in late summer or early fall.

Boeing, NASA's other contracted crew transporter, is trailing by a year.

The capsule was provided by the SpaceX company as the crew rode for their location. After NASA's Space Shuttle program ended in 2011, the agency was forced to rely on Russian Federation to get astronauts to the floating lab. With Kennedy back in astronaut-launching action, NASA can stop buying seats on Russian Soyuz rockets. "I think they're going to keep us pretty busy".

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