SpaceX Just Launched Four Astronauts to ISS for NASA Crew-4 Mission

Crew Dragon Freedom took off on a fiery Falcon 9 rocket on Wednesday.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser

The Crew-4 astronauts in training. From left to right: Jessica Watkins, Robert Hines, Kjell Lindgren and Samantha Cristoforetti 


The International Space Station is about to welcome four new visitors. SpaceX  successfully launched the NASA Crew-4 mission early on Wednesday, US time. The launch came on the heels of the fully private Crew Dragon Axiom-1 mission's safe return earlier in the week.

NASA livestreamed the launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

Liftoff was scheduled for 12:52 a.m. PT on Wednesday. SpaceX shared a view of the fiery launch soon afterward.  

The mission marks the debut of a new Dragon capsule named "Freedom." The four crew members are NASA's Kjell Lindgren, Jessica Watkins and Robert Hines, and European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti. Star Trek fans will fondly remember Cristoforetti for dressing up as Captain Janeway during an ISS stay in 2015. 

NASA coverage will continue through docking (set for 5:15 p.m. PT on Wednesday), the hatch opening and the welcoming ceremony. The astronauts are set to conduct a variety of health, materials science and plant studies while in space and will test out a new smart shirt fitted with sensors. 

Crew-4 marks the fourth SpaceX crew rotation mission through NASA's Commercial Crew Program, an effort that returned astronaut launches to American soil after years of reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft. While these launches are becoming increasingly routine, every human mission is cause for excitement.