NASA, SpaceX launch four astronauts to International Space Station
New Delhi : NASA and SpaceX, jointly launched four astronauts into orbit late on Wednesday. They will reach the International Space Station in about 22 hours from the launch time.
The SpaceX-built launch vehicle, consisting of a Crew Dragon capsule perched atop a two-stage Falcon 9 rocket, climbed into the night sky from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, as its nine Merlin engines roared to life at about 9 pm (0200 GMT Thursday).
The lift-off was streamed live online at NASA TV. Earlier, intermittent rain and cloudy weather had raised doubts over the launch; but the weather got cleared by the flight time.
In the live video footage, the four crew members were seen sitting calmly and strapped under the high-pressure cabin, wearing their helmeted white and black flight suits several minutes after lift-off.
Within 10 minutes of the lift off, the launch commentator informed that they have successfully reached the Earth's orbit. The rocket's reusable lower stage separated from the rest of the spacecraft and flew itself back to Earth, touching down safely on a landing platform floating on a vessel in the Atlantic.
The original launch of the rocket was planned for October 31, but amid unfavourable conditions it was delayed multiple times.
Wednesday's liftoff, if successful, would count as the fifth human spaceflight SpaceX has achieved to date, following its "Inspiration 4" launch in September that sent an all-civilian crew to orbit for the first time.