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Liftoff! SpaceX launches 4 astronauts sending them on 6-month journey in space

NASA astronauts, from left, Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, and Michael Hopkins and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi leave the Operations and Checkout Building on their way to launch pad 39A for the SpaceX Crew-1 mission to the International Space Station at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020. (Photo/John Raoux)
NASA astronauts, from left, Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, and Michael Hopkins and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi leave the Operations and Checkout Building on their way to launch pad 39A for the SpaceX Crew-1 mission to the International Space Station at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020. (Photo/John Raoux) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

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 lifted off on time 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, according to Local 10 sister station WKMG in Orlando.

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Weather is “looking good,” according to SpaceX about one hour before liftoff.

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.

Launch day at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center isn’t just about the seconds before the Falcon 9 rocket blasts off but about the hours and minutes leading up to that moment as crews ready the astronauts and their Dragon spacecraft for flight.

Below is a timeline of what the prep is before takeoff and countdown milestones along the way.

6:57 a.m. Rise and shine: NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Japanese Space Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi up on launch day. This happens more than 12 hours before liftoff.

1:57 p.m. Five and a half hours before liftoff, a launch readiness briefing takes place.

2:27 p.m. Launch crew arrives on console and the Dragon spacecraft configured for launch.

2:57 p.m. Dragon propellent pressurization.

3:12 p.m. The astronaut crew gets a final weather briefing from mission managers and the 45th Space Wing.

3:22 p.m. Four astronauts handed off to the SpaceX team to begin putting on their spacesuits.

4:05 p.m. After completing suit checkouts, astronauts will walk outside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building to say goodbye to their families.

4:12 p.m. The astronauts will ride in Teslas from the O&C building to their waiting Falcon 9 rocket at Launch Complex 39A.

4:32 p.m. Less than three hours before liftoff, the crew will arrive at the launch pad.

4:52 p.m. SpaceX teams will help the astronauts get into the Crew Dragon spacecraft and into their seats.

5:07 p.m. Communication check from mission control to the astronauts.

5:12 p.m. The astronauts' seat will be rotated in position for liftoff and SpaceX will perform final flight suit leak checks.

5:32 p.m. SpaceX teams will close the hatch, or door, to the Dragon spacecraft.

6:42 p.m. SpaceX Launch Director verifies the rocket is “go” for propellant load.

6:45 p.m. The crew access arm retracts. This is the walkway connecting the launch tower to the spacecraft.

6:50 p.m. 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.

6:52 p.m. SpaceX begins fueling the Falcon 9 rocket first stage with rocket grade kerosene loading and liquid oxygen, or LOX, loading begins.

7:11 p.m. SpaceX begins fueling the second stage with LOX. 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.

7:20 p.m. Falcon 9 begins engine chill prior to launch.

7:22 p.m. Dragon transitions to internal power.

7:26: 15 p.m. Command flight computer to begin final prelaunch checks, propellant tank pressurization to flight pressure begins.

7:26:30 p.m. SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for launch. This is the final check before liftoff.

7:27:12 p.m. Engine controller commands the Falcon 9 engine ignition sequence to start.

7:27:15 p.m. Liftoff! Propelled by the Falcon 9 Merlin engines the rocket lifts off launchpad 39 sending Hopkins, Glover, Walker and Soichi on their journey to the International Space Station.

7:36 p.m. (+00:09:22 after liftoff): The Falcon 9 rocket booster will come back and land on a droneship in the Atlantic Ocean 9 minutes and 22 seconds later.

7:39 p.m. (+00:12:00 after liftoff): The Dragon spacecraft will separate from the rocket’s second stage 12 minutes after launch.

The Dragon spacecraft will dock at the International Space Station at 11 p.m. Monday with a hatch opening about one hour later.


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