Two NASA astronauts, a veteran Japanese space flier, and the first Russian cosmonaut to launch on a U.S. spacecraft since 2002 soared into orbit Wednesday from Kennedy Space Center in Florida aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, in what could signal an easing of tension between NASA and the new leadership of the Russian space agency.
SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket Wednesday at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California with 52 Starlink internet satellites, following a two-day delay to allow more time for pre-flight checkouts and to give priority to launch of a SpaceX crew mission launch from Florida. Liftoff of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg occurred at 4:10 p.m. PDT (7:10 p.m. EDT; 2310 GMT).
A multinational crew from the United States, Japan, and Russia launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at 12 p.m. EDT (1600 GMT) Wednesday in pursuit of the International Space Station. The four-person crew took off aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft to begin a five-month science expedition in orbit.
Running a few days late after a delay caused by Hurricane Ian, an Atlas 5 rocket built by United Launch Alliance thundered off a launch pad at Cape Canaveral Tuesday and soared to an altitude of nearly 22,000 miles to deploy two commercial television broadcasting satellites for the commercial operator SES.
Cosmonaut Anna Kikina will become the first Russian crew member to launch on a U.S. spacecraft since 2002 when she straps into a seat aboard SpaceX’s Dragon Endurance capsule Wednesday for a flight to the International Space Station, opening a new chapter in the U.S.-Russian partnership in orbit that a senior Russian space agency official hopes can be extended past the current end date of 2024, despite souring relations on Earth.
SpaceX’s next astronaut launch for NASA, set for Wednesday from Kennedy Space Center, is one of three missions on the company’s schedule this week from launch pads in Florida and California. The crew mission will get top priority, a SpaceX official said, as managers watch downrange sea conditions and technicians try to resolve final technical issues before liftoff.