SpaceX and NASA have successfully delivered another four astronauts on board the International Space Station (ISS).
The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft launched from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center with four astronauts on board Sunday night, and safely docked with the ISS at in the early hours on Tuesday morning, CNN reported.
It comes after a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket had already carried two NASA astronauts to ISS in historic first for a private company back in June this year.
That June launch was the first launch to the ISS from US soil since the cancellation of the Space Shuttle programme in 2011 and the first time NASA has contracted a private firm to carry astronauts to the station.
The four astronauts – Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker with NASA, and Soichi Noguchi, an astronaut with Japan’s space agency – spent more than 30 hours in the space capsule before they arrived on the ISS.
The newly arrived astronauts shared hugs and greeting with NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Russia’s Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, who are already onboard the ISS. They arrived last month on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
It is reported that the Crew-1 astronauts are expected to spend about six months on board the ISS, where they’ll work on a variety of science experiments and conduct space walks to continue updates and repairs on the space station’s exterior.
Before returning home, CNN said they will be joined by yet another group of astronauts on a mission dubbed Crew-2 that’s due to launch in the spring.
The mission comes after Elon Musk took to Twitter at the weekend to warn that he may have coronavirus.
He said two tests came back positive but two other tests came back negative.
NASA of course had retired its Space Shuttle programme nine years ago in order to focus its resources on longer-range manned missions to the Moon or Mars.
Since that time it has been relying on Russia’s Soyuz launchers to deliver astronauts to the space station.
SpaceX has carried out 85 successful test launches of its Falcon 9 family of rockets since 2010.
The company uses the Cargo Dragon variant of the Dragon capsule to lift freight into orbit.
It has also embarked on an ambitious satellite-based broadband internet access programme called Starlink.
SpaceX launched 60 Starlink satellites into orbit in March, bringing the total to 182.
It intends to launch 24 Starlink missions this year in order to reach its target of around 12,000 and eventually 42,000 satellites in orbit.
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