Skip to main content

NASA and SpaceX successfully launch first operational Crew Dragon mission

NASA and SpaceX made history this evening, with the first successful operational launch of the new Crew Dragon capsule. The capsule, designed and built by SpaceX for NASA, will be used to ferry astronauts between Earth and the International Space Station (ISS).

This was notably the first time American astronauts had been launched from American soil since the shuttering of the Space Shuttle program in 2011. In the intervening years, NASA astronauts caught a ride to the ISS aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft, which was a considerable expense for the agency.

The Crew Dragon was launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, with liftoff taking place at 7:27 p.m. ET on Sunday, November 15. It is carrying four astronauts on their way to the ISS: NASA’s Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, and Japanese Space Agency (JAXA)’s Soichi Noguchi.

The first stage of the Falcon 9 returned to Earth and landed on the dron eship, so it can be reused in future.

Now, the crew will travel overnight and are expected to arrive at the space station on Monday evening, with the docking of the capsule with the ISS scheduled for 11 p.m. ET. The crew members will spend six months on the ISS, where they will join NASA’s Kate Rubins and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov.

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 crew members are seen seated in the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft during crew equipment interface training.
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 crew members are seen seated in the Crew Dragon spacecraft during equipment interface training. From left to right are NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, mission specialist; Victor Glover, pilot; and Mike Hopkins, Crew Dragon commander; and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi, mission specialist. SpaceX

The mission, called Crew-1, had been delayed several times due to a variety of factors. It was originally planned for a spooky October 31 launch date, but there was an issue with the Falcon 9 rocket engine that needed to be addressed. That was fixed in time for the mission to be certified, with the plan to launch on Saturday, November 14. But there was anotherbrief delay due to wind conditions, which could have caused problems for the recovery vehicles. But it seems that third time’s a charm, and the rescheduled launch went off tonight without a hitch.

This is the first full operational mission for the Crew Dragon capsule, following its successful test flight earlier this summer. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley made it safely to the ISS and back in the test flight, paving the way for the capsule’s regular use by NASA.

Now, NASA has its own method for transporting astronauts into space. This also marks the first operational mission of NASA’s Commercial Crew program, which invites private companies to partner with NASA to develop and manage human transportation spacecraft. Another company, Boeing, is also working on a crew capsule, the Starliner, which is expected to perform its second uncrewed orbital test flight within the next few months.

Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
Elon Musk gives a tour of SpaceX Starfactory rocket site
elon musk gives a tour of spacex starfactory rocket site

First Look Inside SpaceX's Starfactory w/ Elon Musk

SpaceX chief Elon Musk has given Everyday Astronaut YouTuber Tim Dodd an extensive tour of the Starfactory in Boca Chica, Texas.

Read more
Watch SpaceX nail its 250th Falcon 9 drone ship landing
A Falcon 9 booster coming in to land.

SpaceX has successfully landed its Falcon 9 booster on a drone ship for the 250th time.

The first stage of the company’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket made a flawless landing on the Just Read the Instructions drone ship about eight minutes after launching from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday. A video (below) captured the moment that the booster -- this one making its ninth touchdown -- arrived on the floating platform in the Atlantic Ocean.

Read more
SpaceX Starship rocket survives reentry mostly intact in fourth test flight
starship fourth test flight screenshot 2024 06 145159

The mighty Starship rocket that SpaceX intends to use to transport astronauts to the moon and beyond has made another largely successful test flight, blasting off and returning to Earth somewhat intact. The uncrewed test today was the fourth launch of the Starship to date, following a third test in March in which the Starship launched, but was lost during reentry.

The rocket launched from SpaceX's Starbase facility in Texas at around 9 a.m. ET this morning, Thursday January 6. The Starship lifted off from Texas and traveled through the atmosphere. It then flew over the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Indian Ocean. It traveled for around 40 minutes. The ship then came back through the atmosphere for a reentry, splashing down in the Indian Ocean.

Read more