Next crew bound for International Space Station after early morning launch

Corrosion concern in SpaceX capsule was resolved before launch

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — A multinational crew of three astronauts and one cosmonaut who launched toward the International Space Station early this morning aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule are scheduled to dock with the space station Sunday morning to begin a six-month stay.

The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 3:27 a.m., lighting up a clear night sky over Florida’s Atlantic coast. After reaching orbit, NASA astronaut and mission commander Jasmin Moghbeli said, “We may have four crew members on board from four different nations — Denmark, Japan, Russia and the USA — but we’re a united team with a common mission.”

The launch marked the third time this particular capsule, Endurance, has carried a crew to the space station. Minutes after lofting the capsule toward orbit, the Falcon 9 booster fired its retrorockets and touched down at the landing pad at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, about 10 miles from the launch pad, creating a sonic boom that echoed across the landscape.

NASA and SpaceX scrubbed the initial Friday launch attempt to conduct “additional analysis” of Dragon’s environmental control and life support system, NASA said in a blog post. The agency said Endurance was “healthy” but did not provide additional details.

Earlier this week, during a Tuesday prelaunch conference, NASA indicated that it had resolved concerns about the potential for unacceptable corrosion in a valve in Endurance, after corrosion was found in a different Dragon capsule that carried cargo to the station during June’s CRS-28 mission and splashed down in July.

Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, said the agency had “swapped out” some components in the potentially problematic valve on Endurance to avert any anticipated problems prior to Saturday’s launch.

Bill Gerstenmaier, SpaceX’s vice president of build and flight reliability, said during the press conference that the company “can support launches from three pads simultaneously with our support teams the way we are. So we’re not overstressed, we’re not overworking the workforce.”

The Crew-7 mission is SpaceX’s 11th flight carrying people and the company’s seventh operational crew rotation mission for NASA. The agency has awarded SpaceX contracts totaling $4.97 billion for 14 launches to ISS through 2030.

In addition to Moghbeli, the crew consists of European Space Agency astronaut Andreas Mogensen, Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa and Russian cosmonaut Konstantin Borisov. They are scheduled to dock with the station at 8:39 a.m. Eastern time on Sunday.

Next crew bound for International Space Station after early morning launch