The US space agency NASA and SpaceX, Elon Musk’s company, launched four astronauts to the International Space Station on Sunday. They end nine years of dependence on Russia to send astronauts to space.
The launch with the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 launch vehicle was scheduled for Saturday, but had to be postponed to Sunday at 7:27 PM (1:27 AM Brussels time) due to strong winds. The crew consists of the Americans Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, and the Japanese Soichi Noguchi. Their trip to the ISS will take approximately 11 hours.
It is the first six-month operational mission to the ISS by Elon Musk’s commercial space company. SpaceX already carried out a successful demonstration mission with two astronauts earlier this year. NASA hopes the launch will mark the beginning of a whole series of manned flights to the space station from US soil.
NASA stopped its own launches to the ISS in 2011, under then President Barack Obama, to focus on missions to the Moon and Mars. Since then, the US has been using Russian Soyuz missiles, but that is increasingly costing the US. That’s why NASA signed contracts with SpaceX and Boeing to build a spacecraft to bring astronauts to the ISS.