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SpaceX sends another four Astronauts to space

A long exposure of Crew-4 lifting off into the stars. Photo by: Zac Shaul

April 27 at 3:52 am E.T. from LC-39A at the Kennedy Space Center

For the second time in less than three weeks SpaceX has launched another group of four humans into orbit around our planet. This group though was a NASA mission to swap out astronauts on the International Space Station. After spending their first week inside the space station learning the ropes from the members of Crew-3 they will take the reins of the research currently underway as Crew-3 will head back to Earth after six months of orbital time.

LC-39A lights up at T-zero. Photo by: Zac Shaul

Crew-4 was originally slated to launch a week earlier, but pushed back due to Ax1's delayed departure from the ISS (International Space Station). Both Dragon capsules would need to use the same docking port on station, so obviously one had to leave before the other could arrive. Foul weather conditions in the offshore splashdown zones off the coast of Florida is what caused the delay of Axiom-1. They also needed roughly two days between landing and launching for SpaceX and NASA personnel to complete data reviews and give stage recovery assets time to be in position.

Dragon's breath. Lift off of Crew-4. Photo by: Zac Shaul

With the launch taking place at 3:52 am E.T. it was just thirty-nine hours since Ax1 splashed down when the mission began. It was seen up the coast of the Eastern United States and heard from everyone in the immediate vicinity of Cape Canaveral. The Falcon 9 rocket that was responsible for carrying the crew inside their Dragon Capsule produces almost 1.8 million pounds of thrust and lit up the sky like a giant candle hurtling towards space. This was the first flight for a brand new Crew Dragon, the last for awhile possible so as with any new crew rated launch capsule the first to fly in it get to name it. Freedom was the name dubbed to this capsule in a nod to the first suborbital flight capsule Freedom 7, along with the spirit of space travel.

That Falcon 9 which did the bulk of the work carrying the astronauts to orbit was B1067, the same booster that was used on the Crew-3 mission. This makes the booster now have four flights under its belt as it was also used on a Commercial Resupply Services mission and launched a Turkish satellite as well. It used to be NASA would only certify boosters that have never flown before to launch astronauts, but they later decided that these Falcon 9s were so reliable they decided to allow this. Even the NRO now has launched on a re-flown booster, a first for the organization as of a few weeks ago.

The four of Crew-4 will spend about six months living in the orbiting lab, occupying their time with more than two-hundred science experiments, and at least two NASA astronaut spacewalks. They will return sometime in September after the members of Crew-5 arrive and will once again ride Freedom back to Earth and splashdown in one of the landing sites off the coast of Florida.

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