American private space company, SpaceX, after a successful demonstration of its Dragon capsule earlier this year, has now successfully carried out its first operational Dragon crew mission (Crew-1) to the International Space Station (ISS) . The spacecraft took off with the help of SpaceX’s flagship booster, Falcon 9 from the launch complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
After a successful liftoff, the first-stage boosters of the Falcon 9 landed back safely on SpaceX’s “Just Read the Instructions” droneship, which was floating in the Atlantic Ocean. As of now, the spaceship has not come across any problems and is rightfully on course to the ISS. It is expected to autonomously dock with the ISS at around 11:00 p.m. EST on Monday.
Onboard the Dragon are NASA’s astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). They are flying to the ISS as part of the Commercial Crew Program conducted by NASA and SpaceX, and a six-month operational mission to the space station.
Earlier this year in May, SpaceX and NASA carried out the launch of the Demo-2 crew mission, to test the Dragon capsule for its human spaceflight capabilities. The spacecraft successfully took flight and reached ISS with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, bringing world wide glory for the Elon Musk led company. Following the successful demonstration, SpaceX was certified by NASA to conduct ‘operational crew missions to and from the space station’.
Before the Demo-2, SpaceX had conducted various unmanned missions for testing the company’s human spaceflight capabilities, including a demonstration of a mission abortion at the launch pad and a post-launch abort emergency safety system for the protection of the crew. During the Demo-1, it even tested manual flight controls onboard the Dragon capsule to demonstrate that if needed, human intervention backup would be available and running.
This is the first time NASA has launched a human spaceflight mission from American soil since the Space Shuttle Program in 2011. To this SpaceX said, “The return of human spaceflight to the United States with one of the safest, most advanced systems ever built is a turning point for America’s future space exploration, and it lays the groundwork for missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.”