Uneventful is the best way to describe it, and that’s what we’ve come to expect from SpaceX missions. Under beautiful skies and wonderful temperatures, SpaceX launched the Crew 5 mission to the International Space Station. Aboard the capsule Endurance, the crew includes Commander Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada of NASA, Koichi Wakata of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) and Anna Kikina of Roscosmos, the only female cosmonaut and the first Russian to fly from the US in a renewed seat exchange program.
Coverage began over three hours before liftoff, with the crew walking out of the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout building after suiting up in their customized suits. Following a time honored tradition, they waved to the crowd, posed for pictures and said one last goodbye to their families. Afterwards, they were taken to historic launch pad 39-A in SpaceX’s customised Teslas.
Once at the pad, the crew was loaded one-by-one into the capsule. The only hiccup of the countdown today came when the hatch had to be reopened to check for FOD. FOD stands for “foreign object debris,” and it refers to something that’s not supposed to be there and, in this case, a hair was found around the seal of the hatch. FOD checks are crucial. This hatch won’t be opened again until Endurance splashes down around six months from now and needs to remain sealed the whole time. But after clearing the FOD, the hatch was closed again and passed its checks.
Once all of the work at the pad was complete, the ground crew departed leaving Crew 5 alone at the pad. After comms checks and arming of the launch escape system, fueling began. Sometimes fueling can be restarted if the launch window is long enough should a problem arise but, in the case of launches to the ISS, the window is instantaneous and there’s only one shot at launch. Fueling and final launch checks were uneventful – like so many SpaceX launches before.
Read more: Pictures of SpaceX Crew-5 launch to the ISS
Falcon 9 leapt from the pad at it’s precise launch time of 12:00:56 Eastern time for its eight minute ride to orbit. This brand new Falcon 9 booster successfully landed on the droneship A Shortfall of Gravitas in the Atlantic ocean after playing its part for the day. The second stage finished sending Endurance to its initial orbit before separating and leaving Endurance to continue its journey to the ISS.
From here, Endurance will play catch-up to the orbiting laboratory with a planned docking at 4:57 p.m. Eastern time on October 6.