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SpaceX launches its 9th crewed mission as it heads to space station

This timed exposer shows the trail as the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the companys Crew Dragon spacecraft lifts off from pad 39A for the Crew-6 mission at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, early on March 2, 2023.
CHANDAN KHANNA
/
AFP via Getty Images
This timed exposer shows the trail as the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the companys Crew Dragon spacecraft lifts off from pad 39A for the Crew-6 mission at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, early on March 2, 2023.

SpaceX launched its Crew Dragon capsule with four people aboard during a fiery nighttime launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The launch briefly turned night into day as the Falcon 9 rocket streaked over the Atlantic Ocean. It took nine minutes for the capsule to reach 17,500 mph and escape the Earth's gravity. Over the next 24 hours, the crew will chase the International Space Station with a scheduled docking at 1:17 a.m. ET Friday.

The previous launch attempt — on Monday — was scrubbed three minutes before liftoff after a ground filter that pumps ignition fluid into the rocket engines became clogged.

It's the fourth time this capsule, named Endeavor, has flown to space and the fourth time it will visit the space station. This is the seventh time SpaceX has launched NASA astronauts into orbit (and ninth overall that it has sent people to space) since 2020.

The members of Crew-6 — two NASA astronauts, a Russian cosmonaut and an astronaut from the United Arab Emirates — will spend up to six months on the space station conducting research and experiments. They'll relieve the four people of the Crew-5 mission that arrived last October. That team is set to return to Earth in about a week.

With the launch, there are now 14 people in space. Seven are on the International Space Station, three are on the Tiangong space station and four are in the Crew-6 capsule.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As NPR's Southern Bureau chief, Russell Lewis covers issues and people of the Southeast for NPR — from Florida to Virginia to Texas, including West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. His work brings context and dimension to issues ranging from immigration, transportation, and oil and gas drilling for NPR listeners across the nation and around the world.
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