International – Half a year after its historic maiden flight, the SpaceX company “Crew Dragon” took off for the first time for a regular mission into space.
On Sunday evening (local time), the capsule took off with four astronauts on board in Cape Canaveral in the US state of Florida, as live recordings from the NASA space agency showed. “The spaceship is on the way,” wrote NASA on Twitter.
Immediately after the start, the elected US President Joe Biden congratulated on Twitter. The launch is evidence of the power of science “and of what we can achieve if we restrain our innovation, ingenuity and determination”. The incumbent US President Donald Trump celebrated the “great start” on Twitter later. Nasa was a disaster when it came to power, meanwhile the space agency “has become the” hottest “and most advanced space center in the world by far,” wrote Trump.
The “Crew Dragon” started at the tip of a “Falcon 9” rocket, the first stage of which returned to earth as planned after a few minutes and landed on a floating platform – a great success for SpaceX. The capsule is expected to dock with the International Space Station on Monday evening (local time) after more than 27 hours of flight. The American NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker as well as the Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi are to stay on board the ISS for six months and monitor various experiments. The astronaut Kate Rubins and her Russian colleagues Sergej Ryschikow and Sergej Kud-Swertschkow are currently on the station.
The newly arriving crew – “Crew-1” – is the first to fly regularly with the “Crew Dragon” to the ISS after the manned test in spring was successful. The two US astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken left for the ISS during this test in May and returned in August. It was the first time after an almost nine-year hiatus that astronauts returned to orbit from American soil – and the first time that they were promoted by a private space company. SpaceX had previously only transported cargo to the ISS.
The last time astronauts flew to the ISS on the space shuttle “Atlantis” was in the summer of 2011. After that, NASA mothballed its space shuttle fleet for cost reasons and has since been dependent on Russia for ISS missions. At around 80 million euros per flight in the Soyuz capsule, that was also expensive – and scratched the American ego.