Astronauts sent to ISS using recycled SpaceX rocket
Image credit: reuters
Four astronauts were sent to the International Space Station (ISS) over the weekend using a recycled rocket booster and capsule, both from SpaceX, for the first time.
The feat marks a milestone for Elon Musk’s space firm which has long been trying to lower the cost of space travel by reusing key rocket components.
The arrival of the astronauts also means that the ISS now has 11 residents – the most people on the space station at one time since the space shuttle era. This high occupancy will be short-lived however, as four Crew-1 astronauts are set to return this week.
It is the third launch for Nasa’s Commercial Crew programme, which relies on private sector companies operating from the US, in less than a year.
The crew spent around 23 hours orbiting Earth in order to catch up with the ISS after their launch on 23 April.
The ability of the SpaceX’s Crew Dragon to send four astronauts at a time allows for more people to live and work on the ISS to carry out more research than before.
A Russian laboratory module is set to arrive in the summer with a European robotic arm that will offer more ways of maintaining the ISS and support spacewalkers as they work outside.
ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, one of the crew sent over the weekend, will help in setting up the arm and preparing it for use.
“I salute Thomas and the crew as they embark on another six-month adventure of work and science in space,” said the European Space Agency’s director general Josef Aschbacher, adding that the mission “is a testament to what we can do in international, governmental and commercial collaboration.
“There are three European commercial services offering facilities for organisations to run their own experiments cheaply and quickly in humankind’s unique laboratory in space, both inside and out; your experiment could be flying in just six months’ time.”
Over 200 experiments are planned during Thomas’s time in space, with 40 European ones and 12 new experiments led by the French space agency CNES.
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