SpaceX Successfully launches first operational crewed mission
At 7:27 PM EST on November 15, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket topped with a Crew Dragon capsule containing 4 astronauts lifted off from Kennedy Space Center’s LC-39A in Florida. The successful launch marked the beginning of a 6 month stay in space, during which time the crew will become part of the Expedition 64/65 crew on the International Space Station.
Crewed by NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi, the Crew-1 mission marks the very first operational flight of Crew Dragon, following full certification as a crewed space vehicle. The successful launch builds on the previous success of the Demo-2 mission, in which NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley launched to and returned from the station during a flight test mission.
Hopkins, the Commander for the mission, radioed back to mission control during the flight, “Well done, that was one heck of a ride. There was a lot of smiles… Making history is definitely hard and you guys all made it look easy. Congratulations to everyone. Resilience is in orbit”.
Hours earlier however, the mission was nearly scrubbed, when the capsule closeout crew detected a potential leak in the spacecraft’s hatch during hatch closing. The ground team spent several minutes investigating the cause of the seal issue before resolving it and clearing the pad.
In following the traditions of spaceflight, the crew took a stowaway along for the ride. For each capsule flight, astronauts typically bring a small item with them, to have floating within the capsule. Known as a Zero-G indicator, the item serves as a symbolic means to show when the capsule has reached a zero gravity environment. For Demo-1, the un-crewed capsule flew with an Earth plushie. For Demo-2, the crew took along a sequined dinosaur Beanie Baby, chosen by the astronaut’s children. The crew of this flight decided to take a piece of Star Wars to the stars with them, bringing along a plushie Baby Yoda, the true star of the hit Disney Plus series The Mandalorian.
Immediately following the launch, the first stage SpaceX booster successfully flew itself back to Earth, landing on the company’s autonomous drone ship, “Just Read The Instructions.” This was the first flight for this booster, and its next flight is already planned, with it scheduled to fly on the next crewed mission, Crew-2. With the capsule successfully in orbit, the crew will spend just over 24 hours catching up and preparing to rendezvous with the station, which is currently targeted for approximately 11:00 p.m. EST, Monday.
Matt Haskell is a published aviation and spaceflight photographer and writer based in Merritt Island Florida. Born and raised outside Edwards Air Force Base and NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, he moved to Florida’s Space Coast and began photographing and reporting spaceflight professionally full time in 2018.