“It’s hard to believe we’re here doing this. It feels like a dream,” SpaceX founder Elon Musk said.
“Watching a launch from Kennedy Space Center never gets old for me,” acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk said after the launch.
The launch happened as scheduled at 5:49 a.m. ET. The crew won’t dock at the station until around 5:10 a.m. ET Saturday.
It’s NASA’s third crewed launch in 11 months, after going nearly a decade without human space flight. Jurczyk said establishing a regular launch pattern is critical for NASA’s future.
“It’s going to really accelerate the research and development we’re able to do on the station,” he said.
NASA Commercial Crew Program Manager Steve Stitch said the launch was “extremely smooth.” The four astronauts, representing the U.S., Japan and France, were supposed to fly to the International Space Station on Thursday, but liftoff was delayed because of poor weather offshore.
“Our friends on the @Space_Station are expecting us to show up and we don’t want to be late,” tweeted French astronaut Thomas Pesquet. “They even installed my bedroom recently and literally made my bed . Such nice hosts!”
For the first time, Elon Musk’s company launched astronauts with a previously flown capsule and rocket, just as it’s done for station supply runs. This crew capsule launched with SpaceX’s first crew last May, and the rocket hoisted the second crew in November.
“I usually can’t sleep the night before the launch, and that was true the night before this one,” Musk said. The billionaire engineer also looked ahead to future SpaceX launches, including a plan to bring humans back to the moon, again calling for a permanent base there.
NASA’s spacecraft commander Shane Kimbrough and his crew will spend six months at the space station, replacing four astronauts who will return Wednesday, April 28, at 12:40 p.m. ET, in their own SpaceX capsule, parachuting into the Gulf of Mexico near Tallahassee, Florida.
Besides Kimbrough and Pesquet, the crew includes NASA’s Megan McArthur and Japan’s Akihiko Hoshide.
NewsNation affiliate WFLA & the Associated Press contributed to this report.