Early on Thursday, Elon Musk’s rocket business SpaceX sent a four-person crew into orbit on its way to the International Space Station. Two NASA crew members were joined on board by a Russian cosmonaut and an astronaut from the United Arab Emirates.
At 12:34 a.m. EST (0534 GMT), the SpaceX launch vehicle, which consisted of a Falcon 9 rocket atop an autonomous Crew Dragon capsule dubbed Endeavour, blasted out from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The 25-story-tall spaceship was seen soaring from the launch tower on a live NASA livestream as its nine Merlin engines roared to life in billowing clouds of vapor and a reddish fireball that illuminated the night sky before dawn.
The launch attempt was scrubbed early on Monday in the closing seconds of the countdown due to a stoppage in the flow of engine ignition fluid, which delayed the mission by 72 hours. According to NASA, the issue was resolved by changing the blocked filter and purging the system.
The rocket’s top stage sent the Crew Dragon into a first orbit about nine minutes after Thursday’s launch as it raced through space at a speed of more than 20 times the speed of sound. As this was going on, the reusable lower-stage Falcon booster returned to Earth on its own and made a successful landing on the “Just Follow the Instructions” recovery ship, which was cruising in the Atlantic.
If you enjoyed your flight, don’t forget to give us five stars,” a SpaceX mission control manager was overheard radioing to the crew only moments after the capsule entered orbit.
NASA astronaut Stephen Bowen, the crew’s commander, replied over the radio, saying, “We’d like to thank you for the excellent voyage to orbit today.”