For the first time in nearly a decade, the United States has successfully launched astronauts into Earth’s orbit from American soil.
At 3:22 p.m. ET on May 30, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule took off from the Kennedy Space Center carrying two NASA crew members to the International Space Station. SpaceX is now the first private company ever to send human beings into space.
— NASA (@NASA) May 30, 2020
Around 10 minutes after takeoff, the Falcon 9 separated from Crew Dragon and landed on a drone ship located in the Atlantic Ocean called “Of Course I Still Love You.” Crew Dragon is expected to reach the ISS around 10:30 a.m. ET on May 31.
Crew Dragon has separated from Falcon 9’s second stage and is on its way to the International Space Station with @Astro_Behnken and @AstroDoug! Autonomous docking at the @Space_Station will occur at ~10:30 a.m. EDT tomorrow, May 31 pic.twitter.com/bSZ6yZP2bD
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 30, 2020
Saturday’s launch marked the first crewed mission to depart from the U.S. since the Atlantis shuttle took off in July 2011. NASA has since sent astronauts into orbit from Kazakhstan using Russian Soyuz capsules, while the agency’s sites in Florida have focused on launching crewless missions for cargo and other purposes.
NASA pilots Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are the sole passengers of the spacecraft, which is capable of seating up to seven people. The Russian shuttles NASA has used over the past several years, in contrast, can carry just three.
The launch is part of the Commercial Crew Program, a collaboration between the agency and private industry that, NASA says, aims to develop “a new generation of spacecraft and launch systems capable of carrying crews to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station.”
Saturday’s launch was originally scheduled for Wednesday, May 27, but it was scrubbed less than 20 minutes before takeoff due to inclement weather.