SpaceX Launch


Isha Raj, Journalist

A SpaceX spacecraft carrying four astronauts soared into outer space on Sunday. SpaceX is a rocket manufacturer and transport services company that is privately-funded. It was founded by Elon Musk, and is also known as Space Exploration Technologies. It gained attention worldwide for many historic accomplishments. It is the only private company that can return a spacecraft from low-Earth orbit. In 2010, the Dragon spacecraft became the first commercial spacecraft to deliver cargo to and from the International Space Station.

On Monday, November 16 at 11:01 p.m. EST, 04:01 UTC on November 17, the SpaceX Falcon 9 sent the Crew Dragon capsule to space with a crew. The trip would have been shorter if the Crew Dragon was able to launch on Saturday, as NASA first planned. But Hurricane Eta delayed the takeoff and instead, they launched on Sunday evening. The crew is made up of 4 astronauts. These four being NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and an astronaut with Japan’s space agency JAXA, Soichi Noguchi. The capsule has a restroom, and the astronauts will have time to get some sleep as the fully autonomous vehicle goes through orbit. SpaceX and NASA officials in Houston, Texas, and Hawthorne, California, will watch over the whole journey.

After its approximately six-month stay at the orbiting laboratory, Dragon and the astronauts will return to Earth and splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Florida. The mission was put into question after Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, tweeted that he was showing symptoms of Covid-19. This would have delayed the trip, because if one person is sick and goes on the trip, then that person would contaminate everyone and everything. It was later told that he “most likely” had a “moderate case of covid.” This is the first fully operational crewed mission for SpaceX, making it a landmark mission of NASA.

It has been nearly a decade since the inability to launch astronauts into space, because of the retirement of the Space Shuttle Program in 2011. This caused NASA to be forced to rely on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get astronauts to the ISS. So, NASA awarded SpaceX and Boeing fixed-price contracts worth $2.6 billion and $4.2 billion, respectively, to help them with launches. This is also not the first time a Falcon 9 Rocket sent a Crew Dragon to space. In May, two NASA astronauts, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley went to space. They were the first humans to be carried into orbit through SpaceX. However, that was a test mission, it helped make sure everything was ready for this launch.

As time passes, technology advances, and this is one of the many cases of that being true. While this is not the first time a rocket has been launched or SpaceX released a spacecraft into space, it is progress. As Hiroshi Sasaki, the vice president at JAXA, said, “I am looking forward to enjoying the new era and going together for the future,”.