Boeing engineers will become familiar faces to NASA astronauts on Starliner spacecraft

																	NASA will spend $42 million to better understand space weather					
		Mike Wehner			@MikeWehner

Space NASA will spend $42 million to better understand space weather Mike Wehner @MikeWehner

The SpaceX rocket launch marks the first time a commercially built spacecraft designed for human travel will dock with the International Space Station (ISS).

NASA said: "The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket from the historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida".

America's newest capsule for astronauts rocketed Saturday toward the International Space Station on a high-stakes test flight by SpaceX. After takeoff, the spaceship will head for the ISS where it will attempt an autonomous docking. It will dock on Sunday, stay for five days, and then depart before splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean on March 8. Since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011, the US has been relying on Russian Soyuz rockets, launched from Kazakhstan, to get astronauts to the ISS. Ripley is no mere dummy, but "an anthropomorphic test device outfitted with sensors to gather important data about what an astronaut flying aboard the spacecraft would experience throughout the mission", NASA says.

"The Explorers Program seeks innovative ideas for small and cost-constrained missions that can help unravel the mysteries of the universe and explore our place in it", said Paul Hertz, NASA's Director of Astrophysics.

Crew Dragon, also known as Dragon 2, is a reusable spacecraft designed as a successor to the Dragon space freighter. "And I'm pretty sure it's not just me, I think everybody within SpaceX feels this and wants to get this right".

"SpaceX and NASA teams are working side-by-side on this mission from start to finish as we have throughout this process". Previous missions launched featured the capsule, but were only created to carry cargo and supplies to the ISS.

NASA has retired its own space program since 2011 and hopes to use SpaceX rockets one day, instead of relying on Russian Soyuz capsules.

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The capsule is created to dock and undock automatically with the space station.

"We are not in a space race", he said.

"This mission absolutely meets that standard with a creative and cost-effective mission to solve mysteries about Earth's upper atmosphere", said Hertz.

It's been eight long years since astronauts launched from USA soil.

Planning has been delayed by around three years, with the first manned SpaceX flight still penciled in for July, though officials frequently refer to the end of 2019 as a more realistic deadline.

Human spaceflight is basically the core mission of SpaceX.

A NASA audit released in April on the uncrewed commercial resupply services program found that "continued reliance on commercial operators to provide this vital service could play a major role in NASA's future plans as it searches for cheaper and more efficient methods to explore space".

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