Non-stop: SpaceX launches “Crew-4”, another Dragon capsule to the International Space Station

SpaceX has successfully launched a new mission to the ISS under the name ‘Crew 4’, just two days after rescuing the last successful AX-1 mission.


Less than two days after a SpaceX Dragon capsule crewed by wealthy adventurers splashed down off the coast of Florida , another mission lifted off Wednesday, this time for a NASA mission to the International Space Station (ISS).  The Crew 4 mission took off from the Kennedy Space Center at 3:52 local time (07:52 GMT), with Americans Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins, as well as Italian Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency, on board.

SpaceX’s rapid turnaround time — just under 40 hours between recovering one crew and sending another — is a sign of an increasingly crowded manned spaceflight schedule since tycoon Elon Musk’s company became NASA’s premier astronaut taxi in 2020.

Between 2011 – when the space shuttle program ended – and 2020, NASA relied on Russian Soyuz rockets for that service. “Think about how the Cape has been transformed, think about all those abandoned launch pads on the Cape and how they’re coming back to life,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson told reporters on Tuesday.

Crew 4 will join the Crew 3 quartet, which is nearing the end of its five-month rotation on the ISS, as well as three Russians on the Russian segment of the orbital outpost. A date for the return of Crew 3 will be set soon.

Crew 4 must perform hundreds of scientific experiments, including ongoing research on growing plants without soil in space. Another is to develop an artificial human retina, taking advantage of the ISS’s microgravity environment to help lay down thin protein films, layer after layer.

This technology “could eventually be used to replace damaged photoreceptor cells in the eyes and potentially restore meaningful vision to the millions of people who suffer from degenerative retinal diseases,” said NASA scientist Heidi Parris.

The crew should arrive at the space lab 17 hours after launch, with docking scheduled for 8:15 p.m. Wednesday (0015 GMT Thursday). AFP.