Crew reaches space station on board recycled SpaceX capsule

Four astronauts from US, France and Japan become first sent into orbit by a rocket booster recycled from previous spaceflight.

Astronauts embrace as the four-astronaut crew arrives at the International Space Station on April 24 [NASA TV via Reuters]

Four astronauts have arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) on board SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule Endeavour, NASA said on Saturday, becoming the first crew to be sent into orbit by a rocket booster recycled from a previous spaceflight.

The three men and one woman crew from the United States, Japan and France reached the ISS early on Saturday morning after a 23-hour journey.

They reached the ISS in the same capsule used by SpaceX’s debut crew last May.

“Their arrival means there are now 11 humans aboard our orbiting laboratory, a number not seen since the space shuttle era. Hugs abound,” NASA tweeted, alongside a video of the welcome the new crew of astronauts received.

Endeavour locked on to a docking port shortly after 09:00 GMT about 420km (260 miles) above the south Indian Ocean, NASA said in a statement.

On board were two NASA astronauts – mission commander Shane Kimbrough, 53, and pilot Megan McArthur, 49 – along with Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, 52, and fellow mission specialist Thomas Pesquet, 43, a French engineer from the European Space Agency.

The crew is conducting a six-month science mission on the ISS, NASA said.

“It’s been 20 years … since JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), and ESA (European Space Agency), and NASA and Russian astronauts have been together in space, so it’s actually pretty historic what’s happening today,” said Pesquet, the astronaut from France.

“We can’t wait to start our work on the space station, we can’t wait to see what’s ahead on the adventure for us.”

The mission marks the second “operational” space station team launched by NASA on board a Crew Dragon capsule since human spaceflights resumed from US soil last year after a nine-year hiatus.

It is also the third crewed flight launched into orbit in 11 months under NASA’s fledgling public-private partnership with SpaceX, the rocket company founded in 2002 by Elon Musk, CEO of electric car maker Tesla Inc.

This screen grab taken from the NASA live feed shows the SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft about 20 metres from the docking access of the International Space Station on April 24 [NASA/AFP]
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies