Four astronauts from three countries bound for the International Space Station launched from the Florida coast early Friday morning as part of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission, ABC News reports.
Friday’s launch marked only the third time that Elon Musk’s private space-faring firm has flown astronauts.
It also ushered in a new era of reusability in human space exploration, as the mission uses the same Falcon 9 rocket that sent four astronauts to the ISS last November and the same Crew Dragon spacecraft that sent and returned two astronauts during the first crewed SpaceX flight last May.
The crew is composed of NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur as well as Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Thomas Pesquet. They are set to stay on the space station for a six-month science mission.
The launch was originally scheduled for early Thursday morning but was moved to Friday due to downrange inclement weather. Liftoff occurred at 5:49 a.m. ET on Friday from the historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The Crew Dragon spacecraft is scheduled to dock to the space station at around 5:10 a.m. ET on Saturday.
Prior to liftoff, the U.S. Space Force 45th Weather Squadron had forecast a 95% chance of favorable weather conditions in the area for a launch. NASA’s live coverage of the launch kicked off at 1:30 a.m. ET on its website and social media accounts.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory team received a call earlier this week from U.S. President Joe Biden, who congratulated the researchers on their success in conducting the first controlled flight on another planet.