Historic First: Astronauts Successfully Launched Using Recycled Rocket to International Space Station

Historic First: Astronauts Successfully Launched Using Recycled Rocket to International Space Station

A four-astronaut team launched by NASA and Elon Musk’s rocket company SpaceX made history by becoming the first humans propelled into space by an entirely reused rocket booster.

SpaceX has previously reused boosters multiple times since 2017, but they only transported cargo.

‘Crew-2’ astronauts Shane Kimbrough, Megan McArthur, Akihiko Hoshide, and Thomas Pesquet were launched into space by the same Falcon 9 rocket booster that sent four of their colleagues to the International Space Station (ISS) in November during the Crew-1 mission.

The international crew, including the first French commander and an astronaut from Japan’s JAXA space agency, lifted off early Friday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and are now orbiting in the Crew Dragon spacecraft to begin a six-month science mission on the space station.

During Crew Dragon’s flight, SpaceX will command the spacecraft from its mission control center in Hawthorne, California, and NASA teams will monitor space station operations throughout the flight in Houston.

“It has been an incredible year for NASA and our Commercial Crew Program, with three crewed launches to the space station since last May,” said NASA Acting Administrator Steve Jurczyk. “This is another important milestone for NASA, SpaceX, and our international partners at ESA (European Space Agency) and JAXA. It will be an exciting moment to see our crews greet one another on station for our first crew handover under the Commercial Crew Program.”

The Crew Dragon spacecraft, named Endeavour, plans to dock autonomously to the forward port of the ISS about 5:10 a.m. Saturday.

Elon Musk, Chief Engineer at SpaceX, said, “I’m really proud of the SpaceX team and honored to be partnered with NASA and helping JAXA and ESA as well. We’re thrilled to be a part of advancing human spaceflight.”

NASA points out this commercial partnership with Musk’s company has several firsts, including:

  • First commercial crew mission to fly two international partners
  • First commercial crew handover between astronauts on the space station as Crew-1
  • First reuse of the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket on a crew mission
  • First time two commercial crew spacecraft will be docked to station at the same time.

NASA Television, the NASA App, and their website are providing ongoing live coverage through docking, hatch opening, and the ceremony to welcome the crew aboard the orbital outpost.

Crew-2 will join the ISS inhabitants Shannon Walker, Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Mark Vande Hei of NASA, as well as Soichi Noguchi of JAXA and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov. For a short time, the number of crew on the space station will increase to 11 people until Crew-1 astronauts Walker, Hopkins, Glover, and Noguchi return a few days later.

When Aki Hoshide joins astronaut Noguchi during the commercial crew handover period, it will mark the first time two JAXA astronauts are on station at the same time.

Crew-2 also is the first commercial crew mission to fly an ESA astronaut. Pesquet is the first of three ESA crew members assigned to fly to station on commercial crew spacecraft, kicking off a continuous stay of ESA astronauts on the space station for about a year and a half – in total – for the first time in more than 20 years.

“We know he cannot wait to start working,” ESA said of their French commander.