Fizzling through the sky, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft “Resilience” to orbit and marking the beginning of a new era of human spaceflight for NASA. It’s a historic milestone for SpaceX, coming after years of work to develop and test its spacecraft to fly people regularly to orbit.
Crew Dragon Resilience carries NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi. They will spend the next six months on board the ISS, spending time conducting microgravity studies and other scientific research.
The launch of Noguchi and three Americans comes just three months after a pair of Nasa test pilots successfully concluded SpaceX’s first occupied flight of a Dragon crew capsule.
The crew led by Hopkins, an Air Force colonel, includes physicist Shannon Walker and Navy Commander and rookie astronaut Victor Glover, who will be the first Black astronaut to spend an extended period aboard the space station. Noguchi will become only the third person to rocket into orbit aboard three different kinds of spacecraft.
The company developed Crew Dragon under NASA’s Commercial Crew program, which provided the company with more than USD3 billion to develop the system and launch six operational missions. Crew-1 represents the first of those six missions for SpaceX, with NASA now benefiting from the investment it made in the company’s spacecraft development.
Beyond flying missions for NASA, SpaceX also plans to use Crew Dragon spacecraft for other missions. Those include space tourism, as the company has so far unveiled two deals to fly privately paying people to space on Crew Dragon as early as next year.