At 7:27 pm EST on Sunday, November 15, NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center. They will reach the International Space Station (ISS) late Monday evening US time. The crew will spend six months aboard the space station.
NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker and Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi are the first official crew to be launched as part of the Commercial Crew Program, a partnership between NASA and private aerospace companies Boeing and SpaceX. This is also the first spaceflight licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration.
SpaceX completed the first crewed test of its Crew Dragon capsule during the summer. Demo-2 took astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the ISS for a few months. The test demonstrated the reliability of the capsule, leading to the Crew-1 launch yesterday on the Crew Dragon Resilience.
“Watching this mission launch is a special moment for NASA and our SpaceX team,” Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, said in a statement. “We are looking forward to getting this crew to station to continue our important work, and I want to thank the teams for the amazing effort to make the next generation of human space transportation possible.”
The ISS is going to be crowded for quite some time. Hopkins, Glover, Walker, and Noguchi are joining the rest of the Expedition 64 crew. Already on board are Russian cosmonauts Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, as well as fellow NASA Flight Engineer Kate Rubins. There are more people on the ISS than sleeping quarters, so Hopkins will sleep in the Crew Dragon. The extra personnel will allow for more research to be conducted.
“It is an honor to have our Japanese astronaut launch on this Crew-1 Dragon as the first astronaut of the International Partner participating in the ISS program,” said Hiroshi Sasaki, JAXA vice president. “We look forward to having him conduct lots of science and demonstrate the technology, for here on Earth and for the future. I would also like to thank NASA and SpaceX for their tremendous effort to make this happen.”
Given that Behnken and Hurley are both from NASA, the presence of Noguchi makes Crew-1 the first commercial spacecraft to bring an international crew to space. All the upcoming commercial crew launches will be international. Two more launches are planned as part of the Commercial Crew Program in 2021, which will take more NASA astronauts up into space as well as another JAXA astronaut and two European Space Agency astronauts.