SpaceX launched four astronauts to the international Space Station on Nov 15, 2020, on the first full-fledged taxi flight for NASA by a private company. The Falcon rocket thundered into the night from Kennedy Space Center with three Americans and one Japanese. The Dragon capsule on top – named Resilience by its crew in light of this year’s many challenges, most notably COVID-19 – reached orbit nine minutes later. It is due to reach space station late on Monday (Nov 16) and remain there until spring. Sidelined by the coronavirus himself, SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk was forced to monitor the action from afar. It kicks off what NASA hopes will be a long series of crew rotation between the U.S. and the space station. The flight to the space station – 27 1/2 hours door to door should be entirely automated, although the crew can take control if needed. The three-men, one-woman crew led by Hopkins, an Air Force colonel, named their capsule Resilience in a nod not only to the pandemic, but also racial injustice and contentious politics. Besides its sleek design and high-tech features, the Dragon capsule is quite spacious – it can carry up to seven people. The four astronauts will be joining two Russians and one American. The first stage booster is expected to be recycled by SpaceX for the next crew launch. That’s targeted for the end of March 2021. which would set up the newly launched astronauts for a return to Earth in April. SpaceX would launch yet another crew in late summer or fall. NASA turned to private companies to haul cargo and crew to space station, after the shuttle fleet retired in 2011. SpaceX qualified for both. With Kennedy backup in astronaut-launching action, NASA can stop buying seats on Russian Soyuz rockets. The last one cost $90 million.