First SpaceX Commercial Crew mission on its way after flawless launch

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This simulated image shows the Crew Dragon spacecraft in orbit around Earth. Credit: SpaceX

After a flawless launch, four astronauts are headed for a Monday rendezvous with the International Space Station.

At 7:27 p.m. EST, on Sunday, November 15, 2020, SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission — the first operational flight of their new Crew Dragon spacecraft — lifted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

The Crew-1 Dragon spacecraft lifts off from Launch Complex 39A, atop a Falcon 9 booster rocket on November 15, 2020. Credit: NASA TV

On board the spacecraft:

  • Commander Michael Hopkins, NASA
  • Pilot Victor Glover, NASA
  • Mission Specialist Shannon Walker, NASA
  • Mission Specialist Soichi Noguchi, JAXA

NASA and SpaceX streamed the launch, live, starting at 3:15 p.m. EST on Sunday. Watch a replay of the SpaceX stream, below:

After an exected 8 hour and 30-minute flight into orbit, these four astronauts will then rendezvous with the Space Station, where they will join the Expedition 64 crew for a nearly 6-month stay on board the station.

COOPERATIVE WEATHER

The Crew-1 mission’s launch was set for 7:27 p.m. EST on Sunday, but it was initially scheduled for 7:49 p.m. EST on Saturday. Late Friday afternoon, the mission team decided to delay the launch by a day due to the expected weather conditions during Saturday’s launch window.

According to NASA’s Commercial Crew Program blog, “NASA and SpaceX agreed to target launch for 7:27 p.m. EST Sunday, Nov. 15, due to onshore winds and first stage booster recovery readiness.”

Basically, the winds were expected to make a Saturday launch more difficult, and the water surface conditions out on the Atlantic would have made recovery of the Falcon 9 first stage more treacherous.

As of Sunday, The U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron gave only 50/50 chance for favourable conditions during the launch window. Their primary concerns were “cumulus clouds and associated precipitation, along with electric fields from any more robust showers.” Additionally, they were watching that weather conditions remained favourable in the mission’s various ‘abort’ regions — where the capsule could splash down, if they were forced to separate from the rocket and end the mission early.

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