"SpaceX" sends 4 Astronauts in space

 The private spaceflight company "SpaceX" conducted a static-fire test on Wednesday (Nov. 11) of its Falcon 9 rocket at Pad 39A here at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The test is one of the last major milestones ahead of a planned launch on Saturday (Nov. 14).

The crew is scheduled for lift-off shortly after midnight on Sunday, on a rocket and capsule system built by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk's aerospace company.

SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk said in a statement: "This is a great honour that inspires confidence in our endeavour to return to the Moon, travel to Mars, and ultimately help humanity become multi-planetary.”

The crew consists of one Japanese and three US astronauts, 

Since ending its Space Shuttle programme in 2011, Nasa has depended on Russia's space agency Roscosmos to transport its astronauts to the space station, at a cost of around $90 million (£67m) per seat.

In 2014, it awarded SpaceX and Boeing contracts to provide crewed launch services to the space station as part of its Commercial Crew Program.

The SpaceX certification ends Nasa's reliance on Russia and comes with a price of about 55 million US dollars (£40m) per astronaut.

Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight development at Nasa, said in a statement: "Nasa's partnership with American private industry is changing the arc of human spaceflight history by opening access to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station to more people, more science and more commercial opportunities.

"We are truly in the beginning of a new era of human spaceflight."

Back in May, Elon Musk's company made history when it became the first private company to send humans into orbit.

US astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley travelled to the space station and back as part of a mission to demonstrate SpaceX's capability to safely perform crewed missions.

The routine preflight test kicked off the countdown to the highly-anticipated flight of the company's first operational mission of its Dragon crew capsule, called Crew-1. The spacecraft is bound for the International Space Station, carrying with it three NASA astronauts and one Japanese spaceflyer. 

The test, which was originally scheduled for Tuesday evening (Nov. 10), was pushed back 24 hours so SpaceX could test and replace a purge valve in the rocket's second stage. 

On Wednesday afternoon, the Falcon 9 rocket roared to life, as smoke billowed from its engines during the preflight test. The brief ignition, known as a static-fire test, is a standard part of prelaunch procedures and one of the last major milestones before liftoff.

During the test, the Falcon 9 is held down on the pad while its nine first-stage engines are briefly fired. This allows crews to ensure that all systems are working properly and that the rocket is ready to fly. Shortly after the test, SpaceX tweeted that the static-fire test was a success and that the company planned to launch on Saturday at 7:49 p.m. EST (0049 GMT on Sunday Nov. 15).

The flight marks SpaceX's 21st mission of the year and the 1st long-duration mission to launch from Florida. The rocket's first stage is expected to land back at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station approximately 9 minutes after liftoff. If everything goes according to plan, the crew capsule will spend just 8.5-hours trailing the space station before arriving at the orbital outpost early Sunday (Nov. 15).

Both the Dragon capsule and its launcher are brand new for this mission. Following the success of the Demo-2 mission, which launched two NASA astronauts to the space station in May for a two-month stay, NASA has given SpaceX permission to reuse both the crew capsule and the rocket on future missions. In fact, the Crew-2 mission set to launch next year will reuse the Dragon capsule from Demo-2 and the booster from the Crew-1 mission. 

The current mission, named Crew 1, will see the Crew Dragon capsule carry Nasa's Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, as well as Japan's Soichi Noguchi, to the space station.
The astronauts will spend six months on the orbiting space laboratory, conducting scientific experiments and performing various other tasks.
The crew is set to blast off from the Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida at 00:49 UK time on November 15, in a journey that is expected to last around nine hours.
Shortly after lift-off, the Falcon 9 rocket will separate into a first stage and a second stage.
The first stage will return to a SpaceX landing ship stationed off the coast of Florida, while the second part of the rocket continues the journey with the Crew Dragon.
Once in orbit, the Crew Dragon will separate from the second stage and travel at around 17,000mph.
The craft is expected to rendezvous and dock with the space station on Sunday at 9:20am UK time.
The astronauts will join three other space station residents - Nasa's Kate Rubins and Russia's Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov - to become part of the Expedition 64 crew.
Meanwhile, Nasa's other taxi service for hire, Boeing, is not expected to fly its first crew until next summer.

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