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The Falcon 9 rocket lifting off from Florida. Photo: NASA TV

NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Shannon Walker, Victor Glover and Japan's Soichi Noguchi are on their way to the International Space Station.

Why it matters: The crewed launch marks the second time SpaceX has launched people to orbit for NASA and the mission is expected to be the first of many regular flights like this to the space station.

Details: The Falcon 9 carrying the four crewmembers took flight at 7:27 p.m. ET and the Crew Dragon capsule is expected to dock with the space station Monday night.

  • During their flight to the station, Hopkins, Walker, Glover and Noguchi are planning on testing out what kind of choreography is needed to make sure that everyone is comfortable during their trip to the station.
  • When astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley flew on the Crew Dragon for SpaceX's first crewed flight, there was plenty of room in the capsule because only two of them were flying, this time around, space will be at a premium.
  • The four crewmembers will stay onboard the space station for about six months before heading back home.

Of note: NASA tweeted late Sunday that engineers encountered an issue with heaters used to keep thruster propellant lines at a regular temperature.

Between the lines: All four of the astronauts were in quarantine ahead of launch to ensure they did not catch COVID-19 or another infection before heading up to the station.

The big picture: The Crew Dragon is the first American-made spacecraft able to bring astronauts to orbit since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011.

  • Until this summer's crewed SpaceX launch, NASA was solely reliant on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft to bring their people to and from the space station.
  • Boeing is also working to develop its own crewed capsule, called the Starliner, that is expected to fly its first crewed mission in the next year or so.

This article has been updated with details on the propellant heaters issue.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Dec 1, 2020 - Science

The many ways foreign powers can mess with satellites

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Some nations are capable of disabling satellites without destroying them, opening up different avenues for how conflicts may play out in space.

The big picture: One of the major concerns about warfare in space is the uncontrollable nature of space junk created from destroying or permanently disabling satellites.

What COVID-19 vaccine trials still need to do

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

COVID-19 vaccines are being developed at record speed, but some experts fear the accelerated regulatory process could interfere with ongoing research about the vaccines.

Why it matters: Even after the first COVID-19 vaccines are deployed, scientific questions will remain about how they are working and how to improve them.

2 hours ago - Podcasts

Faces of COVID creator on telling the stories of those we've lost

America yesterday lost 2,762 people to COVID-19, per the CDC, bringing the total pandemic toll to 272,525. That's more than the population of Des Moines, Iowa. Or Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Or Toledo, Ohio.

Axios Re:Cap speaks with Alex Goldstein, creator of the @FacesofCOVID Twitter account, about sharing the stories behind the statistics.