SpaceX launch marks a new era for NASA

SpaceX launched four astronauts into orbit on Sunday (November 15) marking a major milestone for NASA.

It was their first full-fledged mission on board a privately-owned spacecraft.

The 'Resilience' is SpaceX's newly-designed Crew Dragon capsule.

It blasted off atop the company's Falcony 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Flordia, a big win for billionaire Elon Musk, who founded the company.

Astronaut commander Mike Hopkins described the launch as "one heck of a ride."

The crew headed to the International Space Station some 250 miles (or 400 km) above Earth - a 27-hour trip.

Ahead of lift-off the astronauts fitted in their custom white suits, driven out to the launch pad in SUVs made by Tesla, another of Musk's companies.

The other NASA crew include Victor Glover, reportedly the first Black astronaut to live aboard the orbiting laboratory, and physicist Shannon Walker

Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi was also onboard, on his third trip to space.

Sunday's launch puts NASA back into the ring nine years after ending its space shuttle program, and signals a new era of cooperation with private companies.

But SpaceX's Elon Musk was not there to watch the successful lift-off.

Just two days earlier, he said he "most likely" had a moderate case of COVID-19.

SpaceX and NASA have conducted contact-tracing and determined Musk had not come into contact with anyone who interacted with the astronauts.

The mission is expected to last about six months.