KAPEKANAVERALSpaceX launched four astronauts into orbit Friday using a recycled rocket and capsule, the third crew flight for Elon in less than a year.
Astronauts from the USA, Japan and France,
SpaceX has reused a capsule and rocket for the first time to launch astronauts.
Spacecraft commander embracing the trend
For NASA astronaut Megan McArthur, that was a bit of déjà vu. During SpaceX’s first crew flight, she was launched in the same seat as her husband Bob Behnken. This time Behnken and his 7-year-old son were saying goodbye. McArthur blew kisses and offered virtual hugs.
Also on Friday, SpaceX flies: Japanese Akihiko Hoshide and French Thomas Pesquet, the first European to be launched in a commercial crew capsule.
It was a striking scene: ejection clouds glowed against the dark sky reflecting sunlight at high altitudes. A masked Musk briefly met with astronauts at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center before boarding the white gull-winged Teslas from the electric car company.
Despite the early hours, spectators lined up the surrounding paths.
NASA limited the number of launch guests due to COVID-19, but SpaceX’s next special passengers made the cut. Jared Isaacman, tech billionaire who bought a three-day flight, watched Falcon fly with three people to accompany him. Her capsules are still in the space station and will return to Earth next Wednesday with four astronauts. It will be renewed on time for a departure in September.
SpaceX replaced some valves and thermal shields for Friday’s automatic flight and installed new parachutes in the capsule.
All four astronauts held hands, as Kimbrough noted for the first time in more than 20 years that the US, European, and Japanese astronauts launched together.
Rapid reusability is critical to Musk’s effort to free up space for all, take down NASA’s next-moon walkers, and build a city on Mars, his ultimate goal. Musk will go a long way to reach this initial destination with a private flight in September. This will be followed by SpaceX’s fourth crew launch for NASA in October.