CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION, Fla. – Just before 6 a.m., Friday, a SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket carried the four astronauts of Dragon Crew-2 from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, into space.
The launch is the third commercial crew human space flight mission in less than a year. The crew, which consists of NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet, from France, are set to dock with the International Space Station April 24.
More than a dozen organizations from Patrick Space Force Base, Florida, and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station supported the launch including launch weather officers, security forces, rescue forces and mission assurance technicians.
“The 45th Space Wing was proud to support the Crew-2 launch, the third crewed launch in the past year,” said Brig. Gen. Stephen Purdy, 45th SW commander. “Congratulations to our Guardians, Airmen, NASA and SpaceX on another successful day on the Eastern Range. These historic moments would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of our teammates.”
The general also wished safe travels for Kimbrough, McArthur, Hoshide and Pesquet as they head toward the ISS.
According to a NASA press release, the astronauts will spend six months on the ISS conducting space walks, science experiments and a variety of maintenance actions. They will also deliver 250 pounds of cargo including new science hardware, as well as experiments such as a university student-led investigation to study possible causes for suppressed immune response in microgravity. They are set to return to Earth in the fall of 2021.
“It has been an incredible year for NASA and our Commercial Crew Program, with three crewed launches to the space station since last May,” said NASA Acting Administrator Steve Jurczyk. “This is another important milestone for NASA, SpaceX, and our international partners at ESA and JAXA, and for the future of scientific research on board the space station.”
The latest human space flight mission brought with it some historic firsts. The launch was the first commercial crew mission to fly two international partners and it will lead to the first commercial crew handover between astronauts on the space station.