SpaceX successfully launched another crew of four on their way to the International Space Station, marking the fifth time the company has sent people to space. Riding inside SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, the spacefarers will now spend roughly the next day in orbit lapping the Earth, before docking with the ISS.
The mission, called Crew-3, is carrying three NASA astronauts — Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron — and one German astronaut, Matthias Maurer of the European Space Agency. After a number of launch delays, the foursome finally took off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida at 9:03PM ET, launching on top of one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets.
“Welcome to orbit,” SpaceX mission control said to the crew when they’d separated from the rest of the rocket. “Hope you enjoyed the ride from [the Falcon 9]. Dragon will take you from here. Safe travels.”
The launch director also sent his warm wishes to the crew. He said: “It was a pleasure to be part of this mission with you. Enjoy your holidays amongst the stars. We’ll be waving as you fly by. Cheers.” Chari responded on board that it was “a great ride, better than we imagined.”
There, they’ll be greeted by the three crew members already living on the ISS: NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov. Once inside the station, the seven inhabitants will do a short welcoming ceremony around 9:20PM ET. Maruer is officially the 600th person to fly to space, while Barron is the 601st.
Ahead of the launch, NASA had to do a small maneuver with the ISS first to make sure it didn’t get hit by space debris. Around 3:30PM ET, the thrusters on board a docked Russian Progress vehicle fired up, moving the space station slightly higher and out of the way of a fragment from an old Chinese satellite called Fengyun-1C. The boost paved the way for the Crew-3 team to reach the space station tomorrow safely.
The Crew-3 astronauts are slated to come home sometime in spring 2022.