KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – SpaceX successfully launched an international crew of astronauts from Kennedy Space Center Sunday night to the International Space Station on the Crew-1 mission, marking the private company’s second astronaut mission for NASA.
The Falcon 9 rocket launched at 7:27 p.m. from Launchpad 39A at Kennedy Space Center. Despite weather concerns earlier in the day, Space Force weather officials gave the instant window a 80% chance of good liftoff conditions and did not present any problems.
NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, along with Japanese Space Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi became the second-ever team to launch in SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket. NASA Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken launched on the first Dragon test flight with astronauts to the space station in May and successfully splashed down in August, becoming the first Dragon riders and NASA astronauts to launch from American soil since 2011.
The Dragon spacecraft nicknamed Resilience will arrive at the International Space Station about 27 hours after launch, around 11 p.m. Monday.
NASA and SpaceX are continuing to stream the spaceflight as the astronauts make their way to the ISS. Watch live at the top of this story.
Any time today, if you want to know what where we are in the countdown and what the astronauts are doing, check out this timeline.
Re-live the countdown and liftoff below:
8 p.m. Dragon headed to ISS
The astronauts are now beginnings their Earth orbits to catch up to the International Space Station. The spacecraft, known as Dragon Resilience, is set to arrive around 11 p.m. Monday.
NASA and SpaceX will continue to provide live updates at NASA.gov and on NASA TV throughout the flight and docking.
7:40 p.m. Second stage separation and the booster has landed
The Dragon spacecraft separated from the rocket’s second stage 12 minutes after launch, leaving the rocket’s second stage behind and propelling the spacecraft on its journey to the ISS.
The Falcon 9 booster separated and came back down to Earth, landing on the SpaceX droneship called Of Course I Still Love You.
7:27 p.m. We have liftoff!
The Falcon 9 rocket launched right on time at 7:27 p.m. into the pitch black sky above Kennedy Space Center. After facing a chance of poor weather, conditions improved throughout the day making the liftoff possible.
The four crew on the Dragon spacecraft, NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, along with Japanese Space Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi, will arrived at the space station Monday around 11 p.m.
7:25 p.m. Falcon 9 fueling complete
The rocket is loaded with propellent and all systems are “go” for launch.
6:52 p.m. SpaceX began fueling the Falcon 9 rocket first stage with rocket grade kerosene loading and liquid oxygen, or LOX, loading begins. About 10 minutes later, the second stage will begin fueling. If the launch is scrubbed for any reason SpaceX will pull the fuel from the rocket, then disarm the launch escape system before helping the astronauts out of the spacecraft.
Happening Now ➡️ Rocket propellant is currently being loaded into the Falcon 9 rocket.— NASA's Kennedy Space Center (@NASAKennedy) November 15, 2020
In case of an emergency, the Crew Dragon’s launch escape system is armed and ready to abort. Let’s #LaunchAmerica: https://t.co/A9sbAYtdcB pic.twitter.com/AtYR3X5OEb
6:50 p.m. Dragon escape system armed
Weather has improved now to 80% “Go” for 7:27 p.m. liftoff.
The Dragon spacecraft launch escape system is armed. This has to happen before SpaceX begins fueling the Falcon 9 rocket in case their is an emergency abort on the pad. The escape system would send the spacecraft away from the launchpad if there was a problem before liftoff.
6:27 p.m. Liftoff one hour away
Weather is “looking good,” according to SpaceX.
Next up there are several events: the crew walkway will be retracted and the SpaceX launch director will verify the rocket is go to load fuel. Then the spacecraft launch escape system will be armed before they start fueling the rocket.
6:15 p.m. Popular launch viewing site closed
Titusville police closed off the A. Max Brewer Bridge around 6 p.m. and will remain closed until about 8:30 p.m. or one hour after launch.
The Dragon spacecraft hatch is now closed after teams were able to perform a pressure leak check.
SpaceX also performed a communications check with the astronauts.
5:37 p.m. Hatch back open
After the hatch closed SpaceX reported a saw a small drop in pressure while performing a leak check of the Dragon spacecraft and re-opened the hatch to troubleshoot the issue. They have about 10 minutes of margin in the schedule to figure out the issue or the launch could be delayed.
SpaceX’s engineer Kate Tice said the team is 10 minutes ahead of schedule.
Tice said the teams cleaned the seals and found some foreign object debris, or fob, which could be anything small such as lint.
5:10 p.m. Weather improves
Officials with the 45th Weather Squadron tell us the weather has improved for liftoff to 70% favorable during the instant 7:27 p.m. window. This doesn’t include the conditions at sea should there be an abort mid-launch but it’s a good sign.
4:58 p.m. Space fans ready to watch Falcon 9 launch
Hundreds of people showed up at popular launch viewing sites around Brevard County including Jetty Park in Cape Canaveral and Space View Park in Titusville.
Bob, of Cape Canaveral, even brought his cat to watch the liftoff.
A few hundred cars were around Space View Park along the Indian River about two hours before launch. Traffic was not a problem around 5 p.m.
About 250,000 people were expected to come out to watch the liftoff, according to Brevard tourism officials.
4:40 p.m. Astronauts get settled in Dragon
Less than three hours before liftoff, the crew arrived at the launch pad and took the elevator up to the spacecraft. SpaceX suit technicians known as SpaceX ninjas, wearing all black, helped the astronauts get into the Crew Dragon spacecraft and into their seats. The SpaceX ninjas will then help the four astronauts get into their spacecraft seats.
4:15 p.m. Farewell to their families, headed to their rocket ride
After completing suit checkouts, the four astronauts spoke briefly to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and SpaceX COO Gwynne Shotwell from a distance. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk was not in attendance as he is waiting on COVID-19 test results. As the astronauts made their way outside the O&C building the national anthem was performed by country music artist Travis Tritt.
The crew then walked outside to wave farewell to some press and their families. This is the last time the astronauts will see their families in person for six months.
Victor Glover could be seen giving his four kids and wife a distant hug and Japanese Space Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi made some funny faces taking a selfie with his family.
Three Teslas were waiting outside to transport the crew to their waiting Falcon 9 rocket at Launch Complex 39A. On the way to the launchpad, the astronauts were split up into two vehicles. They each had playlists that included an eclectic mix of Bruno Mars, Van Hellen and Alicia Keys.
3:40 p.m. Astronauts put their flight suits on
The four astronauts have been handed off to the SpaceX team to begin putting on their spacesuits. This is happening in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at KSC. Next, they will walk out and say a distant goodbye to their families. Here’s a link to the full countdown timeline.
Happening Now ➡️ @Astro_illini, @AstroVicGlover, Shannon Walker & @Astro_Soichi are getting suited up prior to heading out to Launch Pad 39A— NASA's Kennedy Space Center (@NASAKennedy) November 15, 2020
This mission the first crew rotation flight of a U.S. commercial spacecraft with astronauts to the @Space_Station: https://t.co/A9sbAYtdcB pic.twitter.com/LO4K4FqFsK
1:20 p.m. Astros go social
As it gets closer to liftoff, the Crew-1 astronauts are taking to Twitter to let the world know they’re eager for their mission.
Thanks, Elon! We are ready to serve. https://t.co/bwAoOTAJG1— NOGUCHI, Soichi 野口 聡－（のぐち そういち） (@Astro_Soichi) November 15, 2020
Soichi retweeted Elon Musk, who is self-isolating after receiving mixed COVID-19 test results, as the SpaceX founder expressed his excitement this morning.
Hopkins also took to Twitter Sunday morning.
12:15 p.m. Lunch time
The crew had lunch at 12:15 p.m. Here is what they had:
- Commander Mike Hopkins: NY steak, medium rare with seasoned fries and dirty rice
- Pilot Victor Glover: Lamb chops, medium, with mashed sweet potato and a salad
- Mission Specialist Shannon Walker: Juicy medium hamburger on a brioche bun with sweet potato fries and a salad
- Mission Specialist Soichi Noguchi: Japanese curry rice with chicken and curly fries
12:30 p.m. Business boost
Business owners in Brevard County who’ve been hit hard by the pandemic said they’re grateful to have tourists in town for the launch, bringing a much-needed boost to the economy.
“We have been fully booked since Thursday,” Casa Coquina Del Mar Bed and Breakfast owner Ginny Fitzpatrick said. “We are fully booked tomorrow, too.”
She said without the Crew-1 launch and the earlier SpaceX launch in May, her B&B might not have survived.
11 a.m. Updated forecast
The U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron has issued its latest launch forecast and as of now, the odds remain at 50% go.
Teams are monitoring conditions both at the Cape and downrange across the Atlantic on the spacecraft’s ascent path to orbit.
9:20 a.m. Special visitors
Vice President Mike Pence will attend Sunday’s attempted launch of Crew-1 mission to the International Space Station, according to News 6 partner Florida Today.
A brief statement released by the White House released Saturday said the vice president and Second Lady Karen Pence were coming the Kennedy Space Center to view the launch, but gave no other details.
9 a.m. It’s launch day at KSC
The astronauts have all had breakfast and are preparing for a long-day ahead as they get ready to launch into space on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. If you haven’t meet our space explorers yet. Check this story out. NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Shannon Walker and JAXA astronauts Soichi Noguchi are all veteran astronaut. This will be the first spaceflight for NASA Astronaut Victor Glover.
Weather has been iffy over the last 24 hours and Sunday evening may see more rain. The primary concern for the 7:27 p.m. launch window will be cloud cover and rain, along with possible lightning.
Waiting for the @45thSpaceWing launch day forecast but @JonathanKegges says SpaceX could be dodging possible showers and clouds for #Crew1 launch. Remind anyone of Demo-2? Let's hope for the parting of clouds once again. https://t.co/rogZOpmM3w— Emilee Speck (@EMSpeck) November 15, 2020
Space Force weather officers with the 45th Weather Squadron are predicting a 50% that all weather criteria are met for the launch to happen.