SpaceX launched four astronauts on a flight to the International Space Station on Sunday, NASA’s first full-fledged mission sending a crew into orbit aboard a privately-owned spacecraft.
SpaceX is scheduled to fly seven Dragon missions to the space station over the next 14 months, three manned, and four cargo, as the US government space agency NASA increasingly turns to commercial cooperation as it expands space exploration, including programmes to explore the moon and Mars.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine called the Cape Canaveral facility in the southernmost US state Florida “a multi-user space port” that services not only SpaceX but also the United Launch Alliance, a consortium of companies that operates a number of rockets that launch satellites and other spacecraft into Earth’s orbit and beyond.
Even with coronavirus pandemic precautions in place, 2020 has been the busiest summer for Cape Canaveral since the heyday of the Space Shuttle programmes in the 1980s and the Apollo programme that began in 1961 and concluded in 1972.
Rocket launches from the launchpads that overlook the Atlantic Ocean are becoming increasingly common, sometimes with more than one in a week, and coming at all times of the day, depending on the optimal time to deploy a payload, to meet up with the International Space Station or to accommodate or avoid weather.
That can make launches even of the same model of rockets look distinct depending on whether it’s a clear day or a night launch.