Four astronauts, three from NASA and one from the European Space Agency, have arrived at the International Space Station, just two days after the last crew to depart the orbiting outpost returned to earth.
Rendezvous of the Crew Dragon capsule with the station less than 16 hours after launch of the astronauts from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, also marked one of the fastest flights by Elon Musk's SpaceX to the ISS from liftoff to docking, NASA webcast commentators said.
The fully automated docking took place at 7.37pm EDT on Wednesday (9.37am Thursday AEST) while the Crew Dragon capsule dubbed Freedom and the space station were about 420km above the central Pacific Ocean, according to NASA.
The Freedom crew consists of three American NASA astronauts - flight commander Kjell Lindgren, 49, mission pilot Bob Hines, 47, and 33-year-old mission specialist Jessica Watkins - as well as Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, 45, of the European Space Agency.
Watkins, a geologist who earned her doctorate studying large landslides on Mars and Earth, was making her debut spaceflight and is the first African-American woman to join a long-duration mission aboard the ISS.
The new arrivals were welcomed aboard by the seven existing ISS occupants, the four-member team they will be replacing - three Americans and a German ESA crewmate due to end their mission in early May - and three Russian cosmonauts.
The four latest astronauts, designated Crew 4, are the fourth full-fledged ISS crew NASA has launched on board a SpaceX vehicle since the California-based rocket company began flying US space agency astronauts in 2020.
SpaceX, founded in 2002 by Musk, the billionaire CEO of electric carmaker Tesla who on Monday clinched a deal to buy social media platform Twitter, has now launched seven human spaceflights over the past two years.
Crew 4's predawn launch on Wednesday came just 39 hours after the Axiom team safely parachuted into the Atlantic off the Florida coast in a separate Crew Dragon capsule.
The brief interval between Axiom's splashdown and the Crew 4 launch vividly demonstrated a swift turnaround capability forged by NASA and SpaceX, at least when weather conditions permit, built around a fleet of reusable rockets and crew capsules.
An international crew of at least seven typically lives and works on the platform while travelling at 8km per second, circling earth once about every 90 minutes.