KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – paceX launched four astronauts from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center early Friday morning on the company’s third mission carrying humans to the International Space Station.
As the second long-duration mission flying via SpaceX Crew Dragon, the four astronauts — two American, one Japanese and one European — make up the Crew-2 mission.
NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet launched Friday at 5:49 a.m. in the SpaceX Crew Dragon atop the Falcon 9 rocket.
The astronauts are now traveling in the Dragon Endeavour to the space station and will arrive Saturday morning.
If you missed the liftoff re-watch it at the top of this story.
See a recap of updates below from News 6 reporters at Kennedy Space Center leading up to and after launch:
6 a.m. Booster landing and Dragon heads to ISS
The Falcon 9 booster returned and landed on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship in the Atlantic Ocean. This marked the second astronaut launch for this booster.
Meanwhile, the Dragon spacecraft continues on and separated from the rocket second stage before catching up to the International Space Station.
The crew is settled in for a long flight before their 5:10 a.m. docking Saturday.
5:49 a.m. Liftoff and a show!
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral, taking four astronauts into space.
The first and second stage boosters separating created stunning views in the sky. Normally, the first stage booster is not visible as it comes back for landing but the pre-sunrise hour created the perfect time to see the booster return as it created a plume in the sky.
5:42 a.m. Almost launch time
The range is go and weather is green for both at the launch site and downrange in the even of an emergency abort.
The crew is strapped in and ready to go.
“Endeavour is ready to go,” Astronaut and commander Shane Kimbrough told SpaceX mission control.
"We wish you a great mission, good luck, and enjoy the ride." - The @SpaceX team speaks with the Crew-2 astronauts as we count down the remaining minutes until liftoff at 5:49am ET. pic.twitter.com/NfIoYh0lT0— NASA (@NASA) April 23, 2021
5:18 a.m. Rocket fueling, escape system armed
The Dragon spacecraft escape system is armed and fueling of the Falcon 9 rocket has begun.
5:15 a.m. Launch traffic alert
With under an hour to launch if you are coming to the Space Coast it’s time to get to where you are going. There are some closures to be aware of, below:
Ready for blast off? If you’re planning to watch the SpaceX Crew-2 launch in-person Friday morning, FDOT asks everyone to take alternate routes after the launch besides S.R. 528 to help mitigate traffic. Motorists can take S.R. 520, U.S. 1, S.R. 50, and S.R. 46 instead. pic.twitter.com/ReXFU6CrGf— FDOT District 5 (@MyFDOT_CFL) April 22, 2021
5:11 a.m. Crew access arm retracts
The walkway to the Dragon spacecraft has pulled back.
Weather is still “green” and SpaceX engineer John Insprucker said the last forecast one hour from launch was “fantastic.”
Crew access arm retracts from Dragon and Falcon 9 pic.twitter.com/XcQTkHMT3v— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 23, 2021
4:15 a.m. SpaceX teams leaving pad
The SpaceX teams have secured the hatch and left through the crew access arm. After they are cleared from the pad the arm will retract. The SpaceX launch director will next give the go ahead to arm the Dragon capsule launch escape system. This is in event if there is a launch abort and will send the capsule away to safety.
3:50 a.m. Hatch closed
The Dragon Endeavour hatch, or door, is closed and SpaceX teams have checked the seal for leaks. While the astronauts waited inside, they played a few rounds of what looked like “rock, paper, scissor.”
All four astronauts are smiling and look to be in good spirits.
3:30 a.m. Seats in launch position
The international crew of astronauts are all settled in for their long flight and their seats have been rotated into the launch position. Teams are working ahead of schedule and just completed communications checks with the astronauts.
Next up: Suit leak checks.
3:20 a.m. Weather update
SpaceX engineer John Insprucker said the range is “green” for liftoff a little more than two hours away. Forecasters are keeping an eye on the weather near the launch site but also ocean conditions from Florida all the way to Ireland in the event the Dragon spacecraft has to abort mid-launch and land in the Atlantic Ocean.
3:15 a.m. Buckle in for liftoff
Commander Shane Kimbrough was the first to get inside the Dragon spacecraft. One-by-one the astronauts will get into their custom-made seats in the capsule with the help of SpaceX personnel.
“It’s about a 23 and a half-hour flight so they will want to get comfortable,” SpaceX engineer Jessica Anderson said.
The astronauts will dock at the space station at 5:10 a.m. Saturday.
3 a.m. Astronauts arrive at launchpad
The astronauts have arrived at launchpad 39A and are under going final checkouts in the white room before getting into the Dragon Endeavour spacecraft.
2:55 a.m. Space jams
The astronauts selected some music to listen to on the way to the launchpad. You can check out their playlists here.
2:30 a.m. Astronauts walk out of O&C
The astronauts walked out of the Neil Armstrong Operations & Checkout building where two Teslas will be waiting to take them to the launchpad after they have a few minutes to wave goodbye to their families and supporters. These four astronauts will be spending six months away from their family, friends and the comforts of Earth, but their families also make sacrifices as well.
NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur will ride in one Tesla and JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet will be in another.
Below: Watch McArthur’s son, Theo, and husband, astronaut Bob Behnken say goodbye to the crew.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and NASA acting Administrator Steve Jurczyk stopped by to wish the Crew-2 astronauts well in the suit-up at the O&C building.
Crew-2: SpaceX founder and chief designer Elon Musk and NASA acting Administrator Steve Jurczyk stopped by to chat with the Crew-2 astronauts in the suit-up room before walkout pic.twitter.com/K2Z0nLDc4K— William Harwood (@cbs_spacenews) April 23, 2021
SpaceX teams are helping the crew suits up for the launch.
Three Teslas are ready for transporting the four astronauts. The crew will walk out of the O&C building at 2:29 a.m.
Three Teslas are ready for transporting the four #SpaceX #Crew2 astronauts to launch pad 39a. @astro_kimbrough, @Astro_Megan, @Aki_Hoshide and @Thom_astro are scheduled this morning to walk out of their quarters at 2:29 and then launch to the @Space_Station at 5:49. @news6wkmg pic.twitter.com/pQrhqQXWZz— James Sparvero (@News6James) April 23, 2021
News 6 Meteorologist Tom Sorrells said the wind conditions for the launch look good. He does not think the weather conditions will delay the launch.
Hours before launch, the countdown clock is ticking.
On the eve of liftoff, the countdown clock is ticking toward 5:49 AM liftoff of #SpaceX #Crew2 mission with four astronauts flying to the @Space_Station. Live @news6wkmg coverage starts at 4 in the morning. pic.twitter.com/PoVoyam8gL— James Sparvero (@News6James) April 23, 2021
Each astronaut had their alarm set for 11:09 p.m. to get up and ready for the launch. By this time tomorrow, the crew will be on their way to the International Space Station.