The American company SpaceX has successfully launched a used Falcon 9 rocket into space, carrying four astronauts who will arrive at the space station in 23 hours.
The mission, called CREW-2, will be SpaceX's second commercial Crew launch and the fourth manned Dragon mission. The Dragon was recovered from last year's first manned mission (DM-2), while the rocket was taken from the first commercial crewed mission (CREW-1) launched last November.
Used rockets launch used spacecraft, SpaceX sent four astronauts from the US, Europe and Japan into space
About eight minutes after liftoff, the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket landed on an offshore recovery platform in the Atlantic Ocean, making it a "third hand" rocket.
The Dragon, SpaceX's second commercial crew launch mission, is the first to carry astronauts from two other countries' space partners. In addition to NASA's Shane Kimbrough and Megan MacArthur, they include Thomas Pesquat from the European Space Agency (ESA) and Astronaut Akuhiko Hoshiide from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
The mission is also the Expedition 65/66 echelon of the International Space Station, with U.S. astronaut Shane Kimbrough as commander, Japanese and European astronauts as payload experts, and female astronaut Megan as pilot.
It will be Meghan's first visit to the International Space Station. She previously served the Hubble Space Telescope on the space shuttle Atlantis in 2009, NASA's last servicing mission. Megan is also the wife of American astronaut Bob Benken, who successfully launched SpaceX's first manned mission (DM-2) aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft in May 2020, and the spacecraft is now once again carrying Bob's wife, Megan, into space.
It will also be the first time SpaceX has used an old Falcon 9 rocket with its Dragon spacecraft. NASA and SpaceX hope to use ship and arrow reuse technology to reduce launch costs. To date, SpaceX has launched three manned missions: Crewed Dragon Demonstration 2 (DM-2) on May 30, 2020, Crewed 1 (CREW-1) on November 16, 2020, and Crew-2, which carried 10 astronauts into space.
Under a previous contract with SpaceX, NASA only allowed the manned Dragon to carry four astronauts at a time, but the Dragon has the capability to carry seven astronauts at a time.
The launch was originally scheduled for April 22, but was delayed a day because of bad weather. This is the Falcon rocket and the Crew Dragon on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center on April 22.
Back in 2014, NASA signed a nearly $7 billion contract with SpaceX and Boeing for the Commercial Crew Spaceflight Development Program to assist American astronauts in getting to and from the International Space Station. But SpaceX already completed the unmanned Crew Dragon Demonstration 1 mission (DM-1) in March 2019 and successfully launched a manned flight in May 2020.
Boeing's CST-100 Starline spacecraft failed to reach the space station during its December 20, 2019 mission, resulting in a delay of Boeing's first manned demonstration mission until the second half of 2021, far behind SpaceX's schedule.
The CREW-2 Crew is scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station at 5:10 p.m. Beijing time on Saturday. During their stay on the International Space Station, the crew will conduct hundreds of experiments, including medical research. The Crew will be handed over to the four Crew members of the Crew-1 Crew, who will return to Earth next week, and will stay at the station for six months until the next Crew of Crew-3 arrives at the station.