An international crew of astronauts is en route to the International Space Station (ISS) following a successful launch on the first NASA-certified commercial human spacecraft system. NASA's SpaceX Crew-1 mission lifted off at 7:27 p.m. EST Sunday from Launch Complex 39A at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket propelled the Crew Dragon spacecraft with NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, along with Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), into orbit to begin a six-month science mission aboard the space station.
"NASA is delivering on its commitment to the American people and our international partners to provide safe, reliable, and cost-effective missions to the International Space Station using American private industry," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "This is an important mission for NASA, SpaceX, and our partners at JAXA, and we look forward to watching this crew arrive at station to carry on our partnership for all of humanity."
The Crew Dragon spacecraft, named Resilience, will dock autonomously to the forward port of the station's Harmony module about 11 p.m. Monday, Nov. 16. NASA Television and the agency's website are providing ongoing live coverage through docking, hatch opening, and the ceremony to welcome the crew aboard the orbiting laboratory.
"I could not be more proud of the work we've done here today," said Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer of SpaceX. "Falcon 9 looked great, Dragon was dropped off into a beautiful orbit about 12 minutes into the mission, and we'll get more data as we go."
The Crew-1 mission is the first of six crewed missions NASA and SpaceX will fly as part of the agency's Commercial Crew Program. This mission has several firsts, including:
• The first flight of the NASA-certified commercial system designed for crew transportation, which moves the system from development into regular flights
• The first international crew of four to launch on an American commercial spacecraft
• The first time the space station's long duration expedition crew size will increase from six to seven crew members, which will add to the crew time available for research
• The first time the Federal Aviation Administration has licensed a human orbital spaceflight launch
Crew Dragon also is delivering more than 500 lb of cargo, new science hardware, and experiments.
The astronauts named the Crew Dragon spacecraft Resilience, highlighting the dedication teams involved with the mission have displayed and to demonstrate that when we work together, there is no limit to what we can achieve. They named it in honor of their families, colleagues, and fellow citizens.
The crew will conduct science and maintenance during a six-month stay aboard the orbiting laboratory and will return in spring 2021. It is scheduled to be the longest human space mission launched from the United States. The Crew Dragon spacecraft can stay in orbit for at least 210 days, as a NASA requirement.
"Watching this mission launch is a special moment for NASA and our SpaceX team," said Steve Stich, manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program. "We are looking forward to getting this crew to station to continue our important work, and I want to thank the teams for the amazing effort to make the next generation of human space transportation possible."
During flight, SpaceX commands the spacecraft from its mission control center in Hawthorne, California, and NASA teams monitor space station operations throughout the flight from the Mission Control Center at the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
Hopkins, Glover, Walker, and Noguchi will join the Expedition 64 crew of Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, both of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, and Flight Engineer Kate Rubins of NASA.
At the conclusion of the mission, the Crew-1 astronauts will board Crew Dragon, which will then autonomously undock, depart the space station, and re-enter Earth's atmosphere. Crew Dragon also will return to Earth important and time-sensitive research. NASA and SpaceX can support seven splashdown sites located off Florida's east coast and in the Gulf of Mexico. Upon splashdown, the SpaceX recovery ship will pick up the crew and return to shore.
NASA's Commercial Crew Program is delivering on its goal of safe, reliable, and cost-effectivetransportation to and from the ISS from the United States through a partnership with American private industry. This partnership is changing the arc of human spaceflight history by opening access to low-Earth orbit and the ISS to more people, more science, and more commercial opportunities.
For more than 20 years, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the International Space Station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies, making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth. As a global endeavor, 242 people from 19 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 3,000 research and educational investigations from researchers in 108 countries and areas.