The passengers carried in the crew capsule include NASA’s Megan McArthur and Crew-2 Commander Shane Kimbrough, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet.
The flight marks the Elon Musk-owned company’s third crew flight in less than a year, the second crew rotation on a commercial spacecraft mission and the first with two international partner astronauts.
It is also the first time SpaceX has reused a capsule and rocket to launch astronauts for NASA.
In a post-launch news conference, NASA’s acting administrator Steve Jurczyk said he “could not be more proud.”
SpaceX Chief Engineer Elon Musk, left, and acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk, right, watch as ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, prepare to depart the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building for Launch Complex 39A to board the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft for the Crew-2 mission launch, Friday, April 23, 2021, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Aubrey Gemignani/NASA via AP)
“This marks many important milestones, but it really is important for getting a regular cadence of crew to the station and back. And, it’s going to really accelerate the research and technology development that we’re able to do on station and … I really enjoy watching what Crew-1 has been able to accomplish and I’m going to really enjoy what Crew-2 is going to do on their six-month stint on ISS,” he said. “It took 10 years to get here, to achieve this bold vision we had for commercial crew. And again, it’s been amazing what the team has been able to accomplish.”
Jurczyk pointed out that the trips to the ISS and the research done in the orbital laboratory help to prepare for future space exploration missions like the Moon to Mars and Artemis exploration projects.
“It’s been a really incredible year for NASA. For all our mission areas but particularly for human spaceflight, with three launches in 11 months, and it’s hard to believe it was just 11 months ago — last May — [when] we were in the room — we were watching the launch from the day and doing the first flight foot race for human exploration mission in just about a decade,” he said. “And then, we did the Demo-2 mission and it’s just been incredible to be a part of it.”
Next, Musk told reporters that he believes the world is at the dawn of a new space exploration era and said he looks forward to going beyond Earth orbit to the moon and Mars and helping to make humanity a “spacefaring civilization and a multiplanet species one day.”
“It’s hard to believe we’re here doing this, quite frankly,” he said. “It feels like a dream.”
Providing an update on Crew-2, Commercial Crew Program Manager Steve Stitch said that the astronauts — now suited down — were “doing well in orbit” and are scheduled to eat and sleep at around 2 p.m. ET before they wake up at 10 p.m. ET and put their suits back on Saturday morning at around 2:50 a.m. ET for the rendezvous and docking.
The capsule is expected to make contact with the ISS at about 5:10 a.m. ET and dock at around 5:23 a.m. ET.
He also noted that the weather had “cooperated great” and that recent vehicle improvements to the rocket had made all the difference in handling onshore winds.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off in this time exposure from Launch Complex 39A Friday, April 23, 2021, at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Four astronauts will fly on the SpaceX Crew-2 mission to the International Space Station. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)
“It’s a busy time for us. It’s an exciting time. It’s the first time we’ve done this direct handover and I’m just really proud to be part of the team,” he said.
Hiroshi Sasaki, vice president and director general of JAXA’s Human Spaceflight Technology Directorate, and Frank de Winne, manager of ESA’s International Space Station Program, voiced their excitement for this mission as well as future ones.
Sasaki said he believes the Crew-2 mission is a symbol of international and industry partnership and de Winne said ESA is “really looking forward to further enhance this great international cooperation.”
The Crew-2 members will join NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei, Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov.
The Crew-1 team that arrived last November is scheduled to return to Earth on April 28.
Coverage of the crew’s 23-hour ride and docking will continuously air live on NASA Television and the agency’s app and website.
“These missions allow us to keep our Utilization Research Program, our technology development for Artemis and our lower Earth orbit commercialization activities onboard the International Space Station moving forward with an incredible amount of steam,” NASA’s ISS program manager Joel Montalbano said.