SpaceX has launched the second operational Crew Dragon mission, sending another four astronauts to the International Space Station.
The capsule itself, dubbed Endeavour, already saw action during the Demo-2 mission in 2020 and the first stage of the Falcon 9 booster is also flight-proven, having first been used to launch the Crew-1 mission last year before safely returning to Earth in the usual crowd-pleasing fashion.
The launch had been delayed for a day due to unfavourable weather conditions along the flight path; while the launch site looked good, possible recovery areas were less ideal (should an abort be required, which it was not.)
The booster took off for its second jaunt to space at 09:49 UTC, carrying the first European Space Agency astronaut to ride Musk's missile, Thomas Pesquet, as well as JAXA's Akihiko Hoshide, and NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur. The reflown booster returned safely to a drone ship stationed in the Atlantic.
Liftoff of Falcon 9 and Dragon! pic.twitter.com/g6Oi8qwU2Y— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 23, 2021
McArthur is notable for her work on the Hubble Space Telescope during the last servicing mission, Space Shuttle Atlantis's STS-125. Kimbrough has form when it comes to spacecraft called Endeavour, having flown on the Space Shuttle bearing that name to the ISS on STS-126. Hoshide first flew on Space Shuttle Discovery to deliver the Kibō module to the ISS on STS-124.
As well as being the first time in decades that two crewed US spacecraft have been on orbit at the same time (Endeavour will join Resilience at the ISS), the mission will also see the crew of the ISS briefly hit 11 people before the Crew-1 astronauts return to Earth aboard Resilience later this month.
As for Pesquet, the mission is his second trip to the ISS, having first visited in 2016 on a Soyuz. He will be replaced by German astronaut Matthias Maurer on the Crew-3 mission, currently scheduled for October 2021 aboard a refurbished Resilience.
The two missions will result in a year of continuous presence of an ESA astronaut aboard the ISS. ®