Last night NASA and SpaceX successfully launched the Crew Dragon spaceship into orbit, separating from the Falcon 9 rocket after blasting off from the Kennedy Space Station for the first time in nine years. The mission is carrying veteran NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station, where they are expected to dock at 3.29pm today. More than half-a-million are currently tuned into the live stream on SpaceX’s YouTube channel, but part of the feed was suddenly cut yesterday when an object appeared to fly below the spaceship.
After liftoff, SpaceX commentators said: “Little over four minutes in and Bob and Doug are flying at around 5,600mph, already 200 miles out from Kennedy Space Centre.
“While they continue up, we’re getting a view of the first stage as well, on your right you can see it and it will attempt to land on the drone ship ‘Of Course I Still Love You’.
“Just about a couple of minutes away from entry burn, where three of the nine Merlin engines do ignite to help slow the vehicle down as it enters the Earth’s atmosphere.
“After the entry burn will be a landing burn which is just a single-engine.”
Then, suddenly, a small metallic object appeared to zoom past the screen, before the feed was cut to another angle blocking the view behind Crew Dragon.
Luckily, one eagle-eyed viewer played back the moment, captured it and uploaded it to Youtube with the title ‘SpaceX anomaly caught on camera’.
Narrating the video, the channel said: “You might not see it at first, but at six minutes, three seconds you will see the object.
“I thought ‘is it just a plane?’ but planes wouldn’t be allowed to fly there and they wouldn’t be that quick.
“Is it a bit of debris? It appears to accelerate forward.
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And a fourth added: “It has to be a spaceship, it flies really fast.”
This week’s test flight is the last major milestone for SpaceX under NASA’s Commercial Crew Programme, which was designed to foster partnerships between the agency and private companies to develop new spacecraft for routine trips to the space station.
For the last nine years, NASA has been hitching rides to the ISS aboard Russian capsules and rockets.
Although the public was urged to watch yesterday’s launch remotely because of coronavirus restrictions, Donald Trump his wife Melania, and Vice-President Mike Pence, attended in person.