Astronauts arrive aboard the Endeavour Capsule: NASA
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Astronauts arrive aboard the Endeavour Capsule: NASA

A four-astronaut team arrived at the International Space Station aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule Endeavour, NASA said, after becoming the first crew ever to be propelled into orbit by a rocket booster recycled from a previous spaceflight.

The Endeavour capsule, also making its second flight, was launched into space on Friday atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. SpaceX is the Elon Musk’s commercial rocket company.

The Endeavour docked to the space station complex at 5:08 a.m. EDT (0908 GMT) while the spacecraft were flying 264 miles (425 km) above the Indian Ocean, NASA said in an update.

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 mission marks the second “operational” space station team launched by NASA aboard a Crew Dragon capsule since human spaceflights resumed from American soil last year, following a nine-year hiatus at the end of the U.S. space shuttle program in 2011.

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 Musk, who is also CEO of electric car maker Tesla Inc.

The mission’s Falcon 9 rocket blasted off with the same first-stage booster that lofted a crew into orbit five months ago, marking the first time a previously flown booster has ever been re-used in a crewed launch.

Reusable booster vehicles, designed to fly themselves back to Earth and land safely rather than fall into the sea after launch, are at the heart of a re-usable rocket strategy that SpaceX helped pioneer to make spaceflight more economical.

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