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SpaceX launches 11th crewed mission as it heads to the International Space Station

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying NASA's SpaceX Crew-7 mission lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center on August 26, 2023 in Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Eva Marie Uzcategui
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Getty Images
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying NASA's SpaceX Crew-7 mission lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center on August 26, 2023 in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Four people are heading to the International Space Station after a successful pre-dawn liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

This mission — called Crew-7 — took about nine minutes to reach 17,500 mph and enter low-earth orbit. For the next 29 hours, the capsule will race to catch up to the I.S.S. with a planned docking around 8:50 a.m. ET on Sunday. This is a scheduled six-month mission that's packed with dozens of science and other experiments.

The launch was delayed a day because NASA and SpaceX said they needed additional time to reconfirm the safety and operating margin on one of the Crew Dragon capsule's "environmental control and life support system components." After a review, NASA said the valves on the system were performing normally.

The four people on board this capsule are mission commander and NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli, European Space Agency astronaut (and mission pilot) Andreas Mogensen, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Satoshi Furakawa and Russian cosmonaut Konstantin Borisov.

This is the first spaceflight for Moghbeli and Borisov. It's the second for Mogensen and Furakawa.

"One of the things I'm most excited about is looking back at our beautiful planet. Everyone I've talked to who has flown already has said that was, you know, kind of a life changing perspective to see Earth in that way," said NASA's Moghbeli before departing.

This is the eleventh time SpaceX has launched humans into space.

The last NASA mission — Crew-6 — (which launched in March) is still docked to the I.S.S. and set to splashdown off the Florida coast five days after Crew-7 arrives at the space station.

This mission is flying a Crew Dragon spacecraft named Endurance. This capsule has flown in space two previous times and gone to the International Space Station on each mission (Crew-3 from November 2021 to May 2022; and Crew-5 from October 2022 to March 2023). Endurance has spent a total of 333 days in space.

The Falcon 9 booster carrying the crew to space flew for the first time. And, the first stage landed back at Cape Canaveral instead of on a drone ship at sea — sending a sonic boom across parts of Central Florida.

NASA and SpaceX Crew-7 members (L-R) Russian cosmonaut Konstantin Borisov, European Space Agency astronaut Andreas Mogensen, Mission commander and NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Satoshi Furukawa, greet the media as they arrive at the Kennedy Space Center on August 20, 2023 in Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Joe Raedle / Getty Images
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Getty Images
NASA and SpaceX Crew-7 members (L-R) Russian cosmonaut Konstantin Borisov, European Space Agency astronaut Andreas Mogensen, Mission commander and NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Satoshi Furukawa, greet the media as they arrive at the Kennedy Space Center on August 20, 2023 in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

WMFE's Brendan Byrne contributed reporting

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.