NASA and Elon Musk's commercial rocket company SpaceX launched a new four-astronaut team on a flight to the International Space Station early on Friday, the first crew ever propelled toward orbit by a rocket booster recycled from a previous spaceflight.
The nearly 24-hour ride to the space station, which orbits some 250 miles (400 km) above Earth, had been set to begin on Thursday but was delayed for a day by unfavorable weather forecasts along the rocket's flight path.
The mission marks the second "operational" space station team to be launched by NASA aboard a Dragon Crew capsule since the United States resumed flying astronauts into space from US soil last year, following a nine-year hiatus at the end of the US space shuttle program in 2011.
It is also the third crewed flight launched to into orbit under NASA's fledgling public-private partnership with SpaceX, the rocket company founded and owned by billionaire high-tech entrepreneur Elon Musk. The first was an out-and-back test mission carrying just two astronauts into orbit last May.
Friday's four-member Crew 2 team consists of two NASA astronauts - mission commander Shane Kimbrough, 53, and pilot Megan McArthur, 49, - along with Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, 52, and fellow mission specialist Thomas Pesquet, 43, a French engineer of the European Space Agency.
"There's nothing like it when you look out the window and see a spaceship getting prepared and realize that you're going to be riding on it in a few days," McArthur said at a news briefing just after arriving at Kennedy Space Center last week.
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