SpaceX launches four astronauts into orbit in recycled rocket

SpaceX launched four astronauts toward orbit on Friday using a recycled rocket and capsule in the third crew flight in less than a year for Elon Musk’s company.

The astronauts from the US, Japan and France should reach the International Space Station early on Saturday morning, following a 23-hour ride in the same Dragon capsule used by SpaceX’s debut crew last May. They’ll spend six months at the orbiting lab.

It was the first time SpaceX reused a capsule and rocket to launch astronauts for NASA, after years of proving the capability on station supply runs.

The rocket was used last November on the company’s second astronaut flight.

Embracing the trend, spacecraft commander Shane Kimbrough and his crew weeks ago wrote their initials in the rocket’s soot, hoping to start a tradition.

NASA astronaut Megan McArthur launched in the same seat in the same capsule as her husband, Bob Behnken, did during SpaceX’s first crew flight.

This time it was Behnken and their seven-year-old son waving goodbye. McArthur blew kisses and offered virtual hugs.