SpaceX launches new crew to ISS

Published March 5, 2024
SPACEX astronauts Matthew Dominick, Michael Barratt, Jeanette Epps and Alexander Grebenkin leave their crew quarters for the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Centre.—Reuters
SPACEX astronauts Matthew Dominick, Michael Barratt, Jeanette Epps and Alexander Grebenkin leave their crew quarters for the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Centre.—Reuters

KENNEDY Space CENTER: Three American astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut blasted off on Sunday night from Florida for a six-month mission on the International Space Station.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 10:53pm from the Kennedy Space Center, lighting up the night sky with a long, bright plume of orange flame. Just minutes after the launch, as the rocket soared over the Atlantic, it was moving at a speed of 6,000 miles per hour, Nasa TV commentators said. It took about nine minutes for the capsule to settle into orbit as it prepared to dock with the ISS and relieve four other crew members.

A first attempt to launch the mission was scrubbed due to high winds. Endeavour, the capsule that carried the three men and one woman into orbit, has already been launched four times by Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

The company has been providing astronaut launch services for Nasa since 2020 under the US space agency’s Commercial Crew Programme, with rival contractor Boeing yet to finish its certification.

Matthew Dominick, leader of the Crew-8 mission, is making his first spaceflight, as is fellow American Jeanette Epps. It will also be the first time for Russian Alexander Grebenkin. Michael Barratt, a physician, is making his third visit to the ISS. His first two were aboard space shuttles, which were discontinued in 2011.

Space remains a rare area of cooperation between the United States and Russia since its 2022 invasion of Ukraine. The United States last month imposed fresh sanctions on 500 Russian targets, seeking also to exact a cost for the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in an Arctic prison.

Published in Dawn, March 5th, 2024

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