Elon Musk’s SpaceX has successfully launched four astronauts, including three Americans and one Japanese, to the International Space Station using the first full-fledged taxi flight for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The Falcon rocket, named Resilience, was launched from Kennedy Space Center on Sunday and expected to reach the space station on Monday.

The four astronauts, second crew to be launched by SpaceX, will remain in space until spring. They will be joined by other crew members soon in the subsequent rotations from the US to the space station. The astronauts will aim to conduct scientific research at the orbiting lab.

SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk had to monitor the launch from afar as he “most likely” had a moderate case of COVID-19. No coronavirus infected person was allowed to enter the Kennedy Space Center as per the NASA policy.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine called the operation “another historic moment”, adding that “Make no mistake: Vigilance is always required on every flight.”

Vice President of the United States Mike Pence witnessed the launch with his wife Michelle. “We want to have an exchange of seats where American astronauts can fly on Russian Soyuz rockets and Russian cosmonauts can fly on commercial crew vehicles,” he said.

US President-elect Joe Biden took to Twitter to congratulate the NASA and SpaceX for the successful launch, calling it a “testament to the power of science and what we can accomplish by harnessing our innovation, ingenuity, and determination”.

President Donald Trump called the space operation “great”.