The mission comes almost one year after the first manned SpaceX flight, which was followed up by the second in November

By Jen Juneau and Georgia Slater
April 23, 2021 07:43 AM
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The SpaceX Crew Dragon has lifted off once more!

Launching just before 6 a.m. ET from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the spacecraft endured a smooth ride to orbit as it headed off on its six-month Crew-2 science mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

Aboard the capsule, named Endeavour, are commander Shane Kimbrough and pilot Megan McArthur, both NASA astronauts. Joining them are mission specialists Akihiko Hoshide and Thomas Pesquet, astronauts from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and European Space Agency (ESA), respectively.

"Our crew is flying astronauts from NASA, ESA, and JAXA, which hasn't happened in over 20 years," Kimbrough said ahead of liftoff, according to USA Today. "We're excited to represent our nations, agencies, and all of humanity. Off the Earth and for the Earth, Endeavour is ready to go."

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SpaceX Dragon spacecraft
| Credit: Tim Peake/NASA
SpaceX Crew
Thomas Pesquet, Megan McArthur, Shane Kimbrough and Akihiko Hoshide ahead of SpaceX's Crew-2 mission on April 16, 2021
| Credit: Aubrey Gemignani/NASA via Getty

The launch was originally scheduled for Thursday but pushed to Friday "due to unfavorable weather conditions forecast along the flight path," NASA said in a release. The crew is due to dock at the ISS around 5:10 a.m. on Saturday.

While it marks the second manned mission for the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, the Crew-2 mission will make history as "the first with two international partners," NASA said.

The latest mission comes almost one year after the launch of the first manned SpaceX flight, which was followed up by the second six months later.

Last May, NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley headed to the ISS aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, returning safely just over two months later.

Bob Behnken (R) and Doug Hurley
Bob Behnken (R) and Doug Hurley
| Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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The endeavor was celebrated as the first flight of American astronauts on American-made rockets from U.S. soil after the last Space Shuttle mission in July 2011. It marked the Crew Dragon's second test flight, but the first with astronauts on board.

It was also the first time that a private company, Elon Musk's SpaceX, sent a manned aircraft into space — an important step for the future of the commercial-space-travel industry.

This fall, the first all-civilian mission is set to launch into space aboard a Dragon spacecraft as part of the Inspiration4 mission.

Making up the four-person crew are cancer survivor Hayley Arceneaux, billionaire CEO Jared Isaacman, data engineer Christopher Sembroski and Dr. Sian Proctor, a geoscientist, explorer and science-communication specialist.