NASA and private rocket company SpaceX launched four astronauts into orbit late on Wednesday en route to the International Space Station, including a veteran spacewalker and two younger crewmates chosen to join NASA's future lunar missions.
The SpaceX-built launch vehicle, consisting of a Crew Dragon capsule perched atop a two-stage Falcon 9 rocket, climbed into the night sky from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, as its nine Merlin engines roared to life at about 9 p.m. (0200 GMT Thursday).
Liftoff of the Dragon spacecraft, named Endurance by the crew, was aired live from Cape Canaveral on NASA TV. Intermittent rain and clouds over the Cape earlier in the day had cast doubt on launch prospects, but the weather cleared by flight time, NASA said.
Live video footage webcast by NASA showed the four crew members seated calmly and strapped into the pressurized cabin of their gleaming white SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, wearing their helmeted white and black flight suits several minutes after liftoff.