What just happened? Using a commercial spacecraft built and operated by SpaceX, NASA launched a crew into orbit yesterday on a regular mission to the International Space Station. The rocket launched successfully, placed the crew's capsule in orbit, and landed back on Earth for reuse on the next mission, six months from now.
Yesterday saw a noble leap toward commercial space travel with the launch of SpaceX's "Resilience." On board are four astronauts traveling to the International Space Station (ISS), and they are expected to stay in the pod for a full 27 hours before disembarking on the satellite for a 6-month stay.
The capsule, or Crew Dragon, housing the astronauts was built and operated by SpaceX, as was the reusable Falcon 9 rocket that successfully launched the pod into orbit.
A preliminary mission using a Crew Dragon spacecraft took two astronauts to the ISS back in May, but yesterday's was the "first operational flight," according to NASA.
The launch had a 50% chance of taking off due to weather conditions, but the craft successfully launched at 7:27pm E.T. Over the Atlantic, the Falcon 9 rocket detached from the Crew Dragon and reversed course, landing successfully on the platform that was politely awaiting its arrival.
It wasn't until last week that NASA gave SpaceX the certification to provide regular space travel for its astronauts. This trip, launching four crew members to the ISS, is a regular mission known as Crew-1. Now certified, SpaceX will apparently be brought in as a commercial resource for future missions, including the next launch in six months using the same reusable Falcon-9 rocket.
One of the crew members, Victor J. Glover, will historically be the first Black astronaut to join the ranks of the ISS in its 20 years of crewed operation. "I've had some amazing colleagues before me that really could have done it," said Mr. Glover, "and there are some amazing folks that will go behind me."
Resilience is expected to dock on the ISS tonight at 11pm E.T.