US president-elect Joe Biden has sent his congratulations on the successful launch, calling it a “testament to the power of science”.
President Donald Trump said that thanks to his administration, NASA was now “the ‘hottest’, most advanced, space center in the world, by far!”
“Oh and one more thing, the view is beautiful,” the crew have just told the team on the ground at the end of an update on the phase burn (which went well):
Here is our full story on the launch:
SpaceX has launched four astronauts to the International Space Station on the first full-fledged taxi flight for Nasa by a private company.
The Falcon rocket thundered into the night from Kennedy Space Center in Florida with three Americans and one Japanese onboard, the second crew to be launched by SpaceX. The Dragon capsule on top – named Resilience by its crew in light of this year’s many challenges, most notably Covid-19 – is due to reach the space station after 27-and-a-half hours and remain there until spring.
SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk was forced to monitor the action from afar after being sidelined by the virus. He tweeted that he “most likely” had a moderate case of Covid-19. Nasa policy at Kennedy Space Center requires anyone testing positive for coronavirus to quarantine and remain isolated.
Sunday’s launch comes just a few months after a two-pilot test flight by SpaceX and kicks off what Nasa hopes will be a long series of crew rotations between the US and the space station, after years of delay. More people means more science research at the orbiting lab, officials said.
“This is another historic moment,” Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine said on Friday. But he noted: “Make no mistake: Vigilance is always required on every flight.”
The flight to the space station should be entirely automated, although the crew can take control if needed:
The crew have enough food for twelve meals – plus snacks.
While on board the International Space Station, they will also be growing some food – specifically, radishes. But these will be mainly for scientific, not salad, purposes.
Other foods that have been studied in space are red lettuce and mizuna mustard greens.
The other experiments will include using their own biological samples so that scientists on earth can study how changes in their diets affect their bodies; and attempting to use fungi to “break apart asteroid rock and help extract useful metals — a scientific prelude to extraterrestrial mining operations, and a follow-up to a similar, successful experiment that used bacteria,” according to the New York Times.
Phase burn begins
That phase burn has begun. It will last for nine minutes and will raise the lowest point of dragon’s orbit to a higher altitude.
The burn is “proceeding nominally” or exactly as it should, we have heard.
The next burn will take place only after the crew has slept, so that they won’t be woken up.
The pump that experienced some trouble earlier is still functional, the operations team has confirmed.
The crew has been reminded to minimise their movements during the upcoming delta velocity burn, which is scheduled to start in just under one minute.
The crew members currently on board the International Space Station are asleep, but they will be waking up in around 4 hours’ time, we have just heard.
Unconfirmed reports that upon waking they will begin furiously cleaning the station, stuffing unfolded laundry into cupboards and quickly chucking all other objects too cumbersome to tidy away into their bedrooms.
They’ll take a long swig of cooking sherry and look utterly cool and composed when they open the space door.
More on the space suits here, for those who are interested:
It looks like there was a pressure spike on a pump in the thermo-control system, but the core operations team believe that the pump is still healthy. The core operations team is troubleshooting.
Cabinet environment is being assessed.
Over the next 27 hours, the thrusters on dragon will be fired five times to align the capsule to its destination. This will be going ahead despite the pressure spike.