NASA and Elon Musk’s commercial rocket company SpaceX launched a new four-astronaut team on a flight to the International Space Station on Friday, the first crew ever propelled into orbit by a rocket booster recycled from a previous spaceflight.
The company’s Crew Dragon capsule, Endeavour, streaked into the darkened pre-dawn sky atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket as its nine Merlin engines roared to life at 5:49 a.m. local time from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The crew is due to arrive at the space station, which orbits some 250 miles (400 km) above Earth, early on Saturday following a flight of about 23 hours.
Within 10 minutes of launch, the rocket’s second stage had delivered the crew capsule to Earth orbit, traveling at nearly 17,000 miles per hour, according to launch commentators.
The rocket’s first stage, meanwhile, descended back to Earth and touched down safely on a landing platform floating in the Atlantic on a drone ship affectionately named Of Course I Still Love You.
The mission marks the second "operational" space station team to be launched by NASA aboard a Dragon Crew capsule since the United States resumed flying astronauts into space from U.S. soil last year, following a nine-year hiatus at the end of the U.S. space shuttle program in 2011.
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