A long-exposure photograph shows SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Crew-6 mission in the company’s
Joel Kowsky / NASA
SpaceX launched four people to the International Space Station from Florida as Elon Musk’s company begins the final of the original six missions awarded by NASA.
Known as Crew-6, the mission for NASA will bring the group up to the space station for a six-month stay in orbit. The mission is SpaceX’s sixth operational crew launch for NASA to date, and the company’s ninth human spaceflight to date.
“If you enjoyed your ride, please don’t forget to give us five stars,” SpaceX mission control called out after the capsule reached orbit.
“That was fantastic, thank you,” Crew-6 commander Stephen Bowen responded.
Crew-6 launched a little after midnight on Thursday morning, beginning a just over 24-hour journey to the ISS. The mission brings the number of astronauts SpaceX has launched to 34, including both government and private missions, since its first crewed launch in May 2020.
The Crew-6 astronauts before launch, from left: Russian cosmonaut
The crew includes two Americans, one Russian and one Emirati: NASA astronauts Warren Hoburg and Stephen Bowen, Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev, and United Arab Emirates astronaut Sultan Alneyadi.
SpaceX launched the astronauts in its Crew Dragon capsule called Endeavour, on top of a Falcon 9 rocket. Both the rocket and capsule are reusable, with the latter flying on its fourth mission to date.
After a last-minute delay during SpaceX’s first launch attempt on Monday, a data review identified a clogged filter in a ground system as the cause of an apparent issue in the fluid that ignites the rocket’s engines. SpaceX replaced the filter and completed verification steps to make Thursday’s launch.
SpaceX developed its Crew Dragon spacecraft and fine-tuned its Falcon 9 rocket under NASA’s competitive Commercial Crew program, competing against Boeing’s Starliner capsule. But Boeing’s capsule remains in development, with costly delays pushing back the start of operational Starliner flights.
NASA awarded SpaceX with additional missions, for a total of 14, compared to Boeing’s six.