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A multinational crew blasts off from Florida, heading for the International Space Station
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A multinational crew blasts off from Florida, heading for the International Space Station
by Jennifer Briggs
Space Coast FL (SPX) Aug 26, 2023

Four astronauts from four different countries and agencies soared into orbit early Friday morning from NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft named Endurance atop a Falcon 9 rocket, kicking off a roughly 29-hour journey to the orbiting lab.

The four-person crew took off from the historic Launch Pad 39A (LC-39A) at KSC at 3:27 a.m. EDT (0727 UTC) Saturday, almost a day later than previously scheduled to allow for "additional time to reconfirm required factors of safety and operational margin on one of the Dragon spacecraft's environmental control and life support system (ECLSS) components," NASA wrote in an update.

When T-0 struck on today's instantaneous launch window, nine Merlin 1D engines on the bottom of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket roared to life, lifting off the 215-foot-tall (65-meter) rocket with 1.7 million pounds of thrust. The rocket climbed through clouds over Florida's Space Coast, heading northeast over the Atlantic Ocean to align with the International Space Station's (ISS) orbital plane.

Two minutes and 40 seconds into flight, a single Merlin engine on the rocket's second stage ignited to send the four astronauts into orbit inside the capsule, catching up with the space station about 29 hours after launch. Crew-7 will be the third flight of the Crew Dragon Endurance spacecraft.

About 8 minutes after liftoff, the Falcon 9's first stage booster, B1081, successfully landed on Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS), completing the booster's first mission. It is the fifth time that an unused Falcon 9 booster has launched humans and the second time SpaceX has landed a booster used for crewed flight to return-to-launch-site (RTLS). The first time they landed a booster that supported human spaceflight was with Axiom-2 in May 2023.

A first-time flier, NASA Mission Commander Jasmin Moghbeli will be responsible for all phases of flight, from launch to re-entry, and will serve as an Expedition 69/70 flight engineer aboard the station.

ESA (European Space Agency) Pilot Andreas Mogensen will be responsible for spacecraft systems and performance and will serve as an Expedition 69/70 flight engineer. In 2015, he became the first Danish citizen in space after launching aboard a Soyuz for a 10-day mission to the ISS.

Astronaut Satoshi Furukawa will represent JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency). In 2011, as part of Expeditions 28 and 29, Furukawa spent 165 days aboard the ISS. This marked his second trip to space, and he will be a flight engineer and mission specialist for Expedition 69/70 on the International Space Station.

Cosmonaut Konstantin Borisov of Roscosmos, another first-time space flier, will also serve as a mission specialist and flight engineer for Expedition 69/70, working to monitor the spacecraft during the dynamic launch and re-entry phases of flight.

SpaceX's Dragon Endurance spacecraft will dock to the ISS' Harmony module's space-facing port on Saturday, August 27th, at 8:50 a.m. EDT (1250 UTC). After the Dragon Endurance spacecraft docks at the space station, it will temporarily increase the lab's crew to 11 people.

The four-person crew will live and work on the space station for about six months. They will replace the Crew-6 astronauts, who have been on the station since February, and will depart aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon Endurance capsule for a return to Earth several days after Crew-7's arrival.

SpaceX is slated to launch a second Falcon 9 rocket today,almost 18 hours later at p.m. EDT (UTC) from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40), CCSFS.

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