Cape Canaveral: SpaceX launched four astronauts to the International Space Station on Sunday on the first full-fledged taxi flight for NASA by a private company.
The Falcon rocket thundered into the night from Kennedy Space Centre with three Americans and one Japanese, the second crew to be launched by SpaceX. The Dragon capsule on top — named Resilience by its crew in light of this year’s many challenges, most notably COVID-19 — was due to reach the space station late Monday and remain there until spring.
Sidelined by the virus himself, SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk was forced to monitor the action from afar. He tweeted that he “most likely” had a moderate case of COVID-19. NASA policy at Kennedy Space Centre requires anyone testing positive for coronavirus to quarantine and remain isolated.
Sunday’s launch follows by just a few months SpaceX’s two-pilot test flight. It kicks off what NASA hopes will be a long series of crew rotations between the US and the space station, after years of delay. It frees the US from relying on Russia to launch NASA astronauts into orbit, the only option after NASA retired the Space Shuttle in 2011.