SpaceX capsule heads to space station ferrying NASA crew and Russian

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Oct 5 (Reuters) - A SpaceX rocket soared into orbit from Florida on Wednesday carrying the next long-term International Space Station crew, with a Russian cosmonaut, two Americans and a Japanese astronaut flying together in a demonstration of U.S.-Russian teamwork in space despite Ukraine war tensions.
By Joe Skipper and Steve Gorman
A high-ranking official of the Russian space agency Roscosmos said shortly after the launch that the flight marked “a new phase of our cooperation” with the U.S. space agency NASA.
The SpaceX launch vehicle, consisting of a Falcon 9 rocket topped with a Crew Dragon capsule dubbed Endurance, lifted off into clear skies at noon EDT (1600 GMT) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. The two-stage, 23-story-tall Falcon 9 ascended from the launch tower as its nine Merlin engines roared to life in billowing clouds of vapor and a reddish-orange fireball.
The mission is notable for the inclusion of Anna Kikina, 38, the lone female cosmonaut on active duty with Roscosmos, making the first spaceflight of a Russian launched from U.S. soil in two decades years. As the spacecraft entered Earth orbit, Kikina radioed her thanks to NASA, Roscosmos and their International Space Station (ISS) partners for “giving us this great opportunity.”
“We’re so glad to do it together,” Kikina said.
Kikina, who had trained in the United States for the flight since spring 2021, was essentially swapping places with a NASA astronaut who took her seat aboard a Russian Soyuz flight to the ISS last month under a new ride-sharing deal signed by NASA and Roscosmos in July.
About nine minutes after Wednesday’s launch, the rocket’s upper stage delivered the Crew Dragon into a preliminary orbit as it streaked through space at nearly 16,000 miles per hour (27,000 kph). The reusable lower-stage booster flew itself back to Earth and landed safely on a drone recovery vessel at sea.
The four-member crew and their autonomously flying capsule were expected to reach the ISS in about 29 hours, on Thursday evening, to begin a 150-day science mission aboard the orbital laboratory some 250 miles (420 km) above Earth.
The mission, designated Crew-5, marks the fifth full-fledged ISS crew NASA has flown aboard a SpaceX vehicle since the private rocket venture founded by Tesla TSLA.O CEO Elon Musk began sending U.S. astronauts aloft in May 2020.
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