SpaceX launches 3rd crew with recycled rocket and capsule
The recycled rocket lifts off to ISS carrying four astronauts from the US, Japan and France
SpaceX launched four astronauts into orbit on Friday using a recycled rocket and capsule, the third crew flight in less than a year for Elon Musk’s rapidly expanding company.
The astronauts from the US, Japan and France should reach the International Space Station early on Saturday morning, following a 23-hour ride in the same Dragon capsule used by SpaceX’s debut crew last May. They’ll spend six months at the orbiting lab.
It was the first time SpaceX reused a capsule and rocket to launch astronauts for Nasa, after years of proving the capability on station supply runs. The rocket was used last November on the company’s second astronaut flight.
Embracing the trend, spacecraft commander Shane Kimbrough and his crew weeks ago wrote their initials in the rocket’s soot, hoping to start a tradition.
“If you have rapid and complete reusability, then that is the gateway to the heavens. That’s what we’re trying to get done, and the support of Nasa makes a huge difference,” Musk said after the launch.
Just a week ago, Nasa awarded SpaceX a nearly $3 billion contract to provide the lunar lander that will deliver astronauts to the surface of the moon — Musk’s Starship, intended to be fully reusable to attain his ultimate prize of carrying astronauts to Mars and building a city there.
Flying in a recycled capsule on Friday provided a bit of deja vu for Nasa astronaut Megan McArthur. She launched in the same seat in the same capsule as her husband, Bob Behnken, did during SpaceX’s first crew flight. This time, it was Behnken and their seven-year-old son waving goodbye. McArthur blew kisses and offered virtual hugs.
Also flying SpaceX on Friday: Japan’s Akihiko Hoshide and France’s Thomas Pesquet, the first European to launch in a commercial crew capsule.
“You’re seeing a piece of history happening here,” said Lance Bryan, visiting from Burnsville, Minnesota. “It’s, in this case, good history versus some other things that can happen that have been in our backyard practically.”
A masked Musk met briefly with the astronauts at Nasa’s Kennedy Space Center before they boarded white gull-winged Teslas from his electric car company. All four astronauts clasped hands as Kimbrough noted it was the first time in more than 20 years that US, European and Japanese astronauts had launched together.
The first-stage booster touched down on an ocean platform nine minutes after liftoff.
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