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Home / Science / SpaceX uses recovered space capsules and “flight-proven” rockets to launch astronauts – Spaceflight Now

SpaceX uses recovered space capsules and “flight-proven” rockets to launch astronauts – Spaceflight Now



The Falcon 9 rocket took off from Station 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and four astronauts headed to the International Space Station. Credit: SpaceX

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket put multinational crews into orbit at dawn on Friday morning. This was a spectacular skylight launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, dazzling the east coast’s risers and planning A six-month expedition on the International Space Station.

This mission is the third crew flight of SpaceX to the space station after the two-person test flight launched in May last year and the first four-person flight on November 15th. The four astronauts launched on Friday will replace those who have been in space since November.

“This marks many important milestones, but it is really important for regular crew pits and returns,” said NASA Acting Administrator Steve Jurczyk. “This will really accelerate the research and development we can carry out on the station.”

After a seemingly perfect countdown, the onboard computer of the Falcon 9 ordered its nine Merlin booster engines to ignite for a few seconds, and then the rocket climbed from the Kennedy Space Center’s 39A at 5:49:02 a.m. EDT (0949: 02 Greenwich Mean Time).

Nine engines burn several tons of propellant per second, pushing the 215-foot-tall (65-meter) Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft off the launch pad with 1.7 million pounds of thrust.

Falcon 9 soared above the scattered clouds, exceeded the speed of sound about a minute after liftoff, and flew northeast from the Florida space coast into the stratosphere. Only two and a half minutes before the mission, the Falcon 9 shut down its main engine, and the first phase separated at an altitude of more than 260,000 feet (80 kilometers).

Moments later, a Merlin engine in the second stage of the rocket ignited, sending four astronauts into the orbit of SpaceX’s “Crew Dragon” space shuttle Endeavour. The SpaceX Mission Control Department in Hawthorne, California broadcasts regular status updates to the four astronauts aboard the Dragon spacecraft.

The combustion of the target by the second-stage engine puts the “Crew Dragon” capsule in a near perfect orbit, which happened to arrive at the International Space Station on Saturday (0910 GMT) Eastern Time.

The first phase of Falcon 9 returned to Earth and landed on a SpaceX drone ship several hundred miles from the lower limit of the Atlantic Ocean.

At the same time, the “Crew Chenglong” space shuttle Endeavour separated from the Falcon 9 launcher about 12 minutes after performing its mission. Soon after, the “Dragon” spacecraft opened the nose cone, which covered the docking port of the ship for launch.

“We are very happy to be back in space,” said NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough (Shane Kimbrough). This is the second Crew Dragon mission commander for the Crew Dragon mission. .

The spacecraft’s Draco maneuverable thrusters will burn several times the next day to fine-tune the approach to the space station. If everything goes according to plan, the rendezvous and docking will be fully automated without any input from the Dragon’s crew.

When necessary, astronauts can take over control of the spacecraft.

Kimbrough is a retired U.S. Army colonel and Apache helicopter pilot, leading a crew full of space flight veterans. This is the third space mission of the Golden Bluff astronaut’s career, and the second space flight of the pilot oceanographer Megan McArthur (Megan McArthur). He is an oceanographer and assisted in the maintenance and upgrade of the Hubble Space Telescope on the Space Shuttle Atlantis in 2009.

Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide is on his third space trip, and European Space Agency flight expert Thomas Pesquet is in orbit for the second time.

“Our launch was incredible,” Kimbruff said in a video downlink two hours after liftoff. “Just as the sun rose, we took off. A few minutes after takeoff, we quickly caught up with the sun and caught up with the sun. It was so special to see the sun coming in shortly after liftoff.”

McArthur recently flew in space for 12 years, and she said she is re-adapting to the feeling of microgravity.

“Hello, Earth,” she said. “For me, it’s great to be back in space again in a few years. The ascent is incredible. The journey is really smooth. We never ask for anything better. While doing all the operations, there may be Some cheers and giggles. We hope you like this show too.”

As we all know, many viewers and sky-watchers like this show.

Minutes after the launch on Friday from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the first sunrise illuminates the exhaust of the second-stage engine of the Falcon 9 rocket. Credit: SpaceX

The mission took off from Florida about an hour before sunrise. As the launch took off to the northeast of the Atlantic Ocean, the first sunrise illuminated the expanding engine exhaust plume of the Falcon 9 rocket.

From South Florida all the way to New England, you can see the second stage of a bright white exhaust plume surrounded by a dark sky. Launch observers near the Kennedy Space Center could see the first-stage pulse-controlled thruster as it began to descend back to the Atlantic Ocean for an offshore landing.

When the booster slows down the landing distance by hundreds of miles, even on the Florida coast, the first stage of reentry burns can be seen.

The booster used on Friday’s launch was the same as the first phase of Falcon 9, which sent Crew-1 astronauts to the space station in SpaceX’s previous crew mission. The Crew Dragon Endeavor spacecraft was refurbished and upgraded after it flew to the space station for the first time last year, improving the launch abort system, external paneling and internal layout.

The Crew Long Endeavour was launched in SpaceX’s first astronaut mission in May last year and crashed in the Gulf of Mexico in August. MacArthur was launched from the pilot seat of the “Crew Dragon” capsule, in the same seat as her husband, NASA astronaut Bob Behnken, during last year’s demonstration flight The seat.

Astronauts Thomas Pesquet, Megan McArthur, Shane Kimbrough and Akihiko Hoshide from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center early Friday Armstrong (Neil Armstrong) walked out of the operation and checkout building and embarked on the 39A plan to board the flight crew. Image credit: NASA / Aubrey Gemignani

Reusing rockets is nothing new to SpaceX. The company has re-flyed the Falcon’s rocket booster 60 times, but this is the first time SpaceX has reused rockets and spacecraft to transport astronauts into orbit.

“The future looks great,” said Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder, chief designer and CEO. “I think we are at the dawn of a new era of space exploration.”

SpaceX and NASA shared the cost of developing the Crew Dragon spacecraft, and NASA signed a contract with the company worth more than $3.1 billion to help fund the design, construction and testing of commercial crew capsules. Last week, SpaceX won a $2.9 billion contract from NASA to build a human-rated lunar lander, which will be the first time since 1972 to transport astronauts to the lunar surface.

The lander is derived from SpaceX’s privately funded next-generation starship rocket and is part of NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to extend human exploration to the moon in the 2020s through a series of landings at the lunar south pole .

SpaceX’s contract with NASA also includes at least four crew rotation missions, which may purchase more Crew Dragon flights to meet the needs of the space station in the late 2020s. After the space shuttle was decommissioned, the space agency transferred responsibility for the space station staff and cargo transportation to the private sector.

NASA also signed a contract with Boeing to send the crew to the space station. But Boeing’s plan has faced long delays, and the company’s Starliner capsule has not yet been launched with the astronauts.

The arrival of Crew-2 astronauts at the space station is the third step in a four-part crew change at the orbital research base this month.

On April 9, a Russian Soyuz space shuttle, together with two Russian astronauts and a NASA astronaut, took off from the Baikonur space shuttle in Kazakhstan. They replaced the outgoing crew of two Russians and an American, who landed on their Soyuz descent spacecraft on April 17.

NASA commander Mike Hopkins, pilot Victor Glover, mission expert Soichi Noguchi and astronaut Shannon Walker will take the Crew Dragon disaster-resistant spacecraft to prepare for the flight back to Earth on April 28 to complete the Crew-1 mission.

In a few days, before the Crew-1 astronauts leave, the space station will have 11 passengers.

In addition to missions sponsored by NASA, SpaceX also plans to conduct a series of private astronaut missions on the “Crew Dragon” capsule.

The first all-civilian orbital mission scheduled to be launched from the Kennedy Space Center in September, namely Inspiration 4.

The Inspiration4 mission, led and funded by billionaire Jared Isaacman, aims to raise funds for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Isaman will participate in a three-day mission that includes 29-year-old St. Jude physician assistant, pilot and science educator Sian Proctor’s Hayley Arceneaux, and Seattle area engineer Chris Sembroski who was selected in the charity competition.

The Inspiration4 mission will not dock with the space station. Instead, the crew will take the Crew Dragon capsule to an altitude of 335 miles (539 kilometers) and orbit the earth for three days before returning home.

NASA’s next crew mission, Crew-3, is tentatively scheduled to take off from the Kennedy Space Center on October 23. The four astronauts on this plane will replace the Kim Bluff crew after six months of work on the space station.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.




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