This morning at 5:49:02 AM EDT a Falcon 9 rocket took to the Florida skies with four astronauts on board. The NASA astronauts were Shane Kimbrough, Megan McArthur, and two international partner astronauts – Akihiko Hoshide from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) and Thomas Pesquiet, a European Space Agency astronaut.
The day started for the astronauts late the night before launch at 11:05 PM. As we have seen in the previous crewed Dragon launches, the preparation seems to run well ahead of schedule, and Crew 2 ran about 15 minutes ahead of schedule. The astronauts departed the Operations and Checking Building a couple of hours before launch. Elon Musk could be seen waving goodbye to the astronauts that were about to depart to space on his rocket. I spoke with Musk after the launch about where he watched the launch from. Musk said he watched from the LCC (Launch Control Center). Musk said while it is not the best view due to reflection on the glass at night, he likes being in there because he gets to see all of the vehicle’s ascent data.
After the astronauts left the O&C (Operations and Checking Building) they headed to LC-39A where Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon were awaiting launch. The astronauts ascended the fixed service structure shortly after they arrived at the pad. Once they reached the top floor they had a chance to call their family and friends. Shortly afterwards, the astronauts boarded Crew Dragon one by one. The seats in Dragon rotated to their launch position just before the hatch was closed. The final inspection team closed the hatch and left the pad. At this time the SpaceX teams were still running 15 minutes ahead of schedule.
Early this week I spoke with NASA Astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli and I asked her if the crew would have any entertainment on Dragon while awaiting launch at the pad. Monghbeli said they have nothing on board that’s entertainment but she was mistaken: the NASA astronauts made their own entertainment by playing a game of rock paper scissors.
The countdown went smoothly up until liftoff. Falcon 9 leaped off its pad with four astronauts on board. It is worth noting that this is a reused Dragon capsule and first stage. The Dragon known as Endeavor flew the Demo-2 mission last summer. The rocket made a nominal pitch over the Atlantic. The rocket separated its first stage and the booster successfully landed on a drone ship positioned in the Atlantic Ocean. The second stage lit and the plume was hit by the rising sun in the east. This effect is known as the twilight effect. The spectacle was visible from Cape Canaveral to the Capitol in Washington D.C.
Fun fact: Pilot Megan McArthur was sitting in the same seat that her husband Bob Behnken sat in for Demo-2. Docking will occur on Saturday, April 24th at 5:10 AM EDT. You can watch the docking live on NASA TV. Launch image gallery below thanks to NASA for providing these images.