SpaceX has become the first private company to launch astronauts to the International Space Station, in partnership with NASA on developing human spaceflight capabilities. NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, and Michael Hopkins, and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi left the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida bound for the ISS.
SpaceX’s human launch program was developed under the Commercial Crew program, which saw NASA select two private companies to build astronaut launch systems for carrying astronauts to the ISS from U.S. soil. SpaceX was chosen alongside Boeing by NASA in 2014 to create their respective systems, and SpaceX’s Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket became the first to achieve actual human flight certification from NASA earlier this year with the successful completion of its final, Demo-2 test mission, which flew to the ISS with two U.S. astronauts on board.
Three of the four astronauts on this mission have been to space previously, but for pilot Victor Glover, it’s his first time. These four will join NASA’s Kate Rubins, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov on the station, bringing the total staff complement to seven. This is the first time that astronauts have launched to space during a regular operational NASA mission since the end of the Shuttle program in 2011.
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