Four astronauts reached orbit on a SpaceX rocket after lifting off at 7:27 p.m. from Florida, in the company’s first regular NASA mission to the International Space Station.The Sunday launch appeared to go as planned as the Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
The rocket’s first stage successfully landed on a drone ship about nine minutes after lift off. The Dragon will ferry the astronauts to the space station on SpaceX’s first operational trip following a test flight with a two-person crew that returned from the orbiting lab three months ago.
The latest launch, known as the Crew-1 mission, comes 18 years after Elon Musk founded Space Exploration Technologies Corp. with the ultimate goal of populating other planets.
The Crew-1 mission marks a crucial milestone in the development of a space industry in which private-sector companies provide business and tourism services in low-earth orbit.
Following the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011, NASA awarded SpaceX and Boeing Co. nearly $7 billion in contracts to build new transport systems to the space station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew program.The launch was originally slated for Saturday, but was scrubbed due to bad weather.
In the Crew-1 mission, Commander Michael Hopkins, 51, an Air Force colonel and test pilot, will make his second trip to the space station, seven years after his first. He’ll be joined by three others on the mission: