SpaceX Launches First Human Spaceflight to the International Space Station
Raji Sahota posted on November 15, 2020 |
SpaceX and NASA safely launched on Sunday for the first crew rotation mission.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon system has been certified by NASA, the first commercial system in history to achieve such a designation. (Image courtesy of SpaceX.)
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon system has been certified by NASA, the first commercial system in history to achieve such designation. (Image courtesy of SpaceX.)

NASA has officially certified its first commercial spacecraft system, which launched into orbit from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Sunday, November 15.

Weather problems caused the team to delay the original launch, which was scheduled for Saturday, November 14. According to the military’s 45th Space Wing, there was a 60 percent chance of good weather conditions on Sunday, and poor conditions would have caused further delays to Wednesday, November 18. 

"By working together through these difficult times, you've inspired the nation, the world, and in no small part the name of this incredible vehicle, Resilience," Commander Mike Hopkins said right before liftoff.

The spacecraft will be able to make routine trips to the International Space Station (ISS) to keep it fully staffed. 

The first trip carried Crew Dragon, NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, as well as Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi  Noguchi. 

The Crew-1 mission team in front of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, named Resilience by the crew. From left, JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi, mission specialist; NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins, spacecraft commander; NASA astronaut Shannon Walker, mission specialist; and NASA astronaut Victor Glover, pilot. (Image courtesy of SpaceX.)
The Crew-1 mission team in front of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, named Resilience by the crew. From left, JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi, mission specialist; NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins, spacecraft commander; NASA astronaut Shannon Walker, mission specialist; and NASA astronaut Victor Glover, pilot. (Image courtesy of SpaceX.)

The six-month mission, dubbed Crew-1, follows the signing of the Human Rating Certification Plan and a Flight Readiness Review. It is the first NASA-certified crew spacecraft to have regular flights.

Over the past few years, NASA has conducted ground tests, simulations, uncrewed flight tests, and a test flight with NASA astronauts. On May 30, NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley flew the spacecraft in their Demo-2 mission. After the pair safely returned, the research team completed an extensive analysis of the test flight data to ensure that the craft was ready to fly. 

“Certification moves us from the design and test phase into the crew rotation phase of our work, but we will not stop making sure every flight, including NASA’s Space Crew-1 mission, will be approached with the same rigor we have put into making this the best system it can be for our astronauts,” said Kathy Lueders, associate administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operation Mission Directorate. 

On the day of the launch, the team climbed onto the craft using an aerial crew access arm, which separated from the rocket after it thrust it into the air and begins its journey to the ISS.

The spacecraft, which is 26.7 feet long with a diameter of 13 feet and dubbed the Dragon, features a newly designed composite overwrapped pressure vessel that can carry up to seven passengers. Powered by 16 Draco thrusters, the craft can perform maneuvers such as apogee/perigee maneuvers, orbit adjustment, and attitude control with 90 pounds of force. It is also fully autonomous with manual controls when necessary. The Dragon has also adopted new touchscreen switches and buttons. 

There are also many safety features on board the craft. The spacecraft’s eight SuperDraco abort engines allow the members to escape the launch pad before liftoff. They can also trigger a launch escape shortly into the flight. The craft also has an electromagnetic interference chamber as well as a parachute system. 

The craft will autonomously dock Monday, November 16 at around 11:00 p.m. EST. 

Humans have continuously lived and worked aboard the ISS for more than 20 years. After the Space Shuttle program retired in 2011, NASA astronauts could not fly to and from the space station, but rather had to rely on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft for their transport. This new spacecraft will allow American astronauts to concentrate on advancing scientific knowledge and exploring the great worlds beyond ours with comfort and ease.

Recommended For You