SpaceX launches 2nd crew to International Space Station, regular station crew flights begin

The four astronauts on board will spend six months on the International Space Station.

Associated Press

Nov 16, 2020, 3:45 AM

Updated 1,338 days ago

Share:

SpaceX launched four astronauts to the International Space Station on Sunday on the first full-fledged taxi flight for NASA by a private company.
The Falcon rocket thundered into the night from Kennedy Space Center with three Americans and one Japanese, the second crew to be launched by SpaceX. The Dragon capsule on top - named Resilience by its crew in light of this year’s many challenges, most notably COVID-19 - was due to reach the space station late Monday and remain there until spring. 
Sidelined by the virus himself, SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk was forced to monitor the action from afar. He tweeted that he “most likely” had a moderate case of COVID-19. NASA policy at Kennedy Space Center requires anyone testing positive for coronavirus to quarantine and remain isolated. 
WATCH LIVE - NASA Launch Video
Sunday’s launch follows by just a few months SpaceX’s two-pilot test flight. It kicks off what NASA hopes will be a long series of crew rotations between the U.S. and the space station, after years of delay. More people means more science research at the orbiting lab, according to officials. 
“This is another historic moment,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Friday. But he noted: “Make no mistake: Vigilance is always required on every flight.”
WATCH: Astronaut Stephen Bowen discusses 
The flight to the space station - 27 1/2 hours door to door - should be entirely automated, although the crew can take control if needed.
NASA astronaut Col. Mike Fincke describes the mission overview.
NASA astronaut Col. Mike Fincke on the importance of sending more people to space. 
NASA astronaut Col. Mike Fincke on life aboard the ISS.
NASA astronaut Col. Mike Fincke on the importance of reusable space vehicles.
NASA astronaut Col. Mike Fincke on how exploring space can help the Earth's environment. 
Interview with Col. Fincke conducted by News 12's Danielle Campbell
With COVID-19 still surging, NASA continued the safety precautions put in place for SpaceX’s crew launch in May. The astronauts went into quarantine with their families in October. All launch personnel wore masks, and the number of guests at Kennedy was limited. Even the two astronauts on the first SpaceX crew flight stayed behind at Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Vice President Mike Pence, chairman of the National Space Council, traveled from Washington to watch the launch. 
Outside the space center gates, officials anticipated hundreds of thousands of spectators to jam nearby beaches and towns.
NASA worried a weekend liftoff - coupled with a dramatic nighttime launch - could lead to a superspreader event. They urged the crowds to wear masks and maintain safe distances. Similar pleas for SpaceX’s first crew launch on May 30 went unheeded.
The three-men, one-woman crew led by Commander Mike Hopkins, an Air Force colonel, named their capsule Resilience in a nod not only to the pandemic, but also racial injustice and contentious politics. It’s about as diverse as space crews come, including physicist Shannon Walker, Navy Cmdr. Victor Glover, the first Black astronaut on a long-term space station mission, and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi, who became the first person in almost 40 years to launch on three types of spacecraft.
They rode out to the launch pad in Teslas - another Musk company - after exchanging high-fives and hand embraces with their children and spouses, who huddled at the open car windows. Musk was replaced by SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell in bidding the astronauts farewell.
Besides its sleek design and high-tech features, the Dragon capsule is quite spacious - it can carry up to seven people. Previous space capsules have launched with no more than three. The extra room in the capsule was used for science experiments and supplies.
The four astronauts will be joining two Russians and one American who flew to the space station last month from Kazakhstan.
The first-stage booster - aiming for an ocean platform several minutes after liftoff - is expected to be recycled by SpaceX for the next crew launch. That’s currently targeted for the end of March, which would set up the newly launched astronauts for a return to Earth in April. SpaceX would launch yet another crew in late summer or early fall. 
SpaceX and NASA wanted the booster recovered so badly that they delayed the launch attempt by a day, to give the floating platform time to reach its position in the Atlantic over the weekend following rough seas.
Boeing, NASA’s other contracted crew transporter, is trailing by a year. A repeat of last December’s software-plagued test flight without a crew is off until sometime early next year, with the first astronaut flight of the Starliner capsule not expected before summer.
NASA turned to private companies to haul cargo and crew to the space station, after the shuttle fleet retired in 2011. SpaceX qualified for both. With Kennedy back in astronaut-launching action, NASA can stop buying seats on Russian Soyuz rockets. The last one cost $90 million. 
The commander of SpaceX’s first crew, Doug Hurley, noted it’s not just about saving money or easing the training burdens for crews.
“Bottom line: I think it’s just better for us to be flying from the United States if we can do that,” he told The Associated Press last week.


More from News 12
1:51
HEAT ALERT: Heat advisory continues through Wednesday, evening pop-up storms likely in the Hudson Valley

HEAT ALERT: Heat advisory continues through Wednesday, evening pop-up storms likely in the Hudson Valley

0:39
Lightning strikes tree in Yorktown Heights, causes house fire

Lightning strikes tree in Yorktown Heights, causes house fire

7:10
Trump picks Sen. JD Vance of Ohio, a once-fierce critic turned loyal ally, as his GOP running mate

Trump picks Sen. JD Vance of Ohio, a once-fierce critic turned loyal ally, as his GOP running mate

1:54
Medical professionals in the Hudson Valley discuss how to stay safe in the heat

Medical professionals in the Hudson Valley discuss how to stay safe in the heat

1:36
43 sick cats rescued from scorching hot van in Newburgh

43 sick cats rescued from scorching hot van in Newburgh

1:35
Port Jervis summer camp program on pause due to extreme heat

Port Jervis summer camp program on pause due to extreme heat

1:42
Firefighters battle blaze in extreme heat in Verplanck

Firefighters battle blaze in extreme heat in Verplanck

1:48
Meals on Wheels of Rockland keeps seniors fed and cool during hot summer

Meals on Wheels of Rockland keeps seniors fed and cool during hot summer

1:52
Popular high-powered rifle used in Trump rally shooting

Popular high-powered rifle used in Trump rally shooting

1:35
Families flock to Tibbetts Brook Park in Yonkers to stay cool

Families flock to Tibbetts Brook Park in Yonkers to stay cool

Heat Alert: Energy companies urge conservation as temperatures soar

Heat Alert: Energy companies urge conservation as temperatures soar

0:43
MTA outlines plan to keep riders cool during intense heat and humidity

MTA outlines plan to keep riders cool during intense heat and humidity

2:58
INTERVIEWS: Local Hudson Valley leaders discuss assassination attempt of former President Trump

INTERVIEWS: Local Hudson Valley leaders discuss assassination attempt of former President Trump

2:14
Don't be caught in the dark: Are you ready to power through hurricane season?

Don't be caught in the dark: Are you ready to power through hurricane season?

3:30
Trump heads to convention as authorities investigate motive, security in assassination attempt

Trump heads to convention as authorities investigate motive, security in assassination attempt

5:30
In prime-time address, Biden warns of election-year rhetoric, saying ‘it’s time to cool it down’

In prime-time address, Biden warns of election-year rhetoric, saying ‘it’s time to cool it down’

1:40
Chappaqua reacts to assassination attempt on former President Trump

Chappaqua reacts to assassination attempt on former President Trump

1:54
Reps. Lawler, Torres to introduce bill enhancing Secret Service protection for presidential candidates

Reps. Lawler, Torres to introduce bill enhancing Secret Service protection for presidential candidates

2:07
A look back at US political violence that changed history

A look back at US political violence that changed history

2:31
Pace professor weighs political rhetoric, gun control in wake of Trump rally shooting

Pace professor weighs political rhetoric, gun control in wake of Trump rally shooting