The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from launch complex 39A at noon EDT Wednesday, carrying a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft dubbed “Endurance” into orbit, where it separated from the rocket’s upper stage about 25 minutes after launch. It is the eighth human spaceflight launched by SpaceX and the sixth flight as part of Nasa’s Commercial Crew program, in which the space agency contracts with civilian launch providers to ferry humans to and from the space station.
A post launch media conference will be carried live on Nasa TV beginning at around 1.30pm EDT.
It will now take the Crew-5 mission nearly a day to reach the ISS and draw close enough to dock with the space station. That docking procedure is expected around 4.57pm EDT Thursday afternoon.
“Missions like Crew-5 are proof we are living through a golden era of commercial space exploration,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a media statement. “During their stay aboard the International Space Station, Crew-5 will conduct more than 200 science experiments and technology demonstrations, including studies on printing human organs in space and better understanding heart disease.”
Crew-5 carries a complement of four: Nasa astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, Japanese Space Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata, and Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina.
Ms Kikina is the first cosmonaut to fly on a US rocket as part of a new cross-flight agreement signed by Nasa and Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, on 15 July.
Lt. Col. Mann, a former US Marine Corps pilot, is also the first Native American woman astronaut to fly to space for Nasa, being of Wailacki heritage, a tribe from northern California. The first Native American astronaut to fly for Nasa was John Herrington, a member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, who flew to the space station aboard the space shuttle Endeavour in 2002.
The members of Crew-5 will share the space station for a few days with the members of the Crew-4 mission — Nasa astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines, Jessica Watkins, and European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti — who have resided on the space station since their launch in April. Weather allowing, the Crew-4 team will soon board their own Crew Dragon spacecraft that has been docked at the ISS since their arrival and return to Earth, splashing down in the ocean waters off the coast of Florida.