The NASA-Space X partnership has launched their fourth manned flight in 17 months with the Endurance mission, which will carry 'Crew 3' consisting of four more astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) just after 'Crew 2' returned to Earth on Monday, touching down after a record 199 days in orbit.
The mission had faced repeated delays due to poor weather interfering with the launch schedule as well as a postponement caused by an unspecified health issue experienced by one of the astronauts assigned to the flight.
The SpaceX-built launch vehicle, consisting of a Crew Dragon capsule perched atop a two-stage Falcon 9 rocket, climbed into the night sky from Nasa's Kennedy Space Center in Florida and was broadcast live from Cape Canaveral. Mission commander and combat pilot Raja Chari, mission specialist Kayla Barron, designated pilot Tom Marshburn and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Matthias Maurer are the crew members who are scheduled to reach the ISS after 22 hours of flight.
For Chari, Baron and Maurer, this is a debut spaceflight, with Chari and Baron also scheduled as part of the 18-astronaut team that will be part of the Artemis mission which will see NASA flying astronauts to the moon for the first time in half a century since the Apollo landing.
If all goes smoothly, the three US astronauts and a European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut will arrive about 22 hours later and dock with the space station 250 miles (400 km) above the Earth to begin a six-month science mission aboard the orbiting laboratory.
On Monday, the Crew 2 on the 'Endeavour' mission returned to Earth at the Gulf of Mexico, carrying back mission commander Shane Kimbrough, Megan McArthur of NASA, Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency (ESA), and Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency after 6 months in space, repairing and upgrading the ISS.