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The commercially developed SpaceX Crew-2 Dragon ship carrying a group of four astronauts from the United States, Japan and France successfully docked with the International Space Station on Saturday following its liftoff from NASA's space center a day earlier.

Two NASA astronauts — Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur — along with Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Thomas Pesquet from the European Space Agency, will begin a six-month mission aboard the orbiting laboratory.

The new crew members arrived after a trip just shy of 24 hours, bringing the number of astronauts aboard the ISS to 11.

"Welcome back to home away from home for 6 months!!!!!!" 56-year-old JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi, who arrived at the ISS aboard a Crew Dragon ship in November, said in a Twitter post. He will begin his return to Earth on Wednesday after a handover.

It is the first time in 11 years that two Japanese astronauts have been in space simultaneously, since Noguchi and Naoko Yamazaki, 50, in 2010.

"I look forward to seeing a scrum formed by the 11 astronauts and engaging in the mission," Hoshide, 52, said after arriving at the ISS, likening the mission to his beloved rugby.

Hoshide will serve as a commander of the ISS and as a mission specialist on the station. He is planning to conduct experiments using the Experiment Module Kibo while aboard, among other endeavors.

The SpaceX system is expected to serve as a successor to NASA's Space Shuttle program that was in service for 30 years through 2011, a development that ends the subsequent years of reliance on the Russian Soyuz vehicle as the sole means of accessing the ISS.

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