SpaceX launches first Dragon crew capsule into space

The Dragon crew capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket at the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida

The Dragon crew capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket at the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida

That was super stressful, but it worked.

The mission is a test launch with only a dummy on board the capsule ahead of a manned flight scheduled for later this year.

SpaceX and Boeing are both building crew ferry ships in an $8 billion push by NASA to restore America's ability to launch USA and partner astronauts to space in the wake of the space shuttle's retirement in 2011.

In 2014, the USA space agency awarded contracts to SpaceX and Boeing to take over the task of ferrying astronauts to the space station.

The launch is a milestone for Elon Musk's space company and NASA's long-delayed goal to resume human spaceflight from USA territory later this year. Boeing is looking to launch its Starliner capsule without a crew as early as April and with a crew possibly in August.

For SpaceX, this flight is a key milestone in its 17-year history. "I'm actually humbled at being at this point".

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NASA has relied on Russian Federation to ferry its astronauts to the space station since the end of the U.S. space shuttle program in 2011 after a 30-year run.

The uncrewed SpaceX capsule made history earlier this morning (March 3) when it docked at the space station, becoming the first commercial crew vehicle to ever visit the orbiting laboratory and the first to launch into orbit from USA soil since NASA's space shuttle Atlantis in 2011.

The rendezvous with the orbiting lab marks the first time that Crew Dragon, created to eventually carry astronauts, has ever flown and raises the stakes for rival Boeing Co, which also has a contract with Nasa as part of what is known as the agency's "Commercial Crew" programme.

Although SpaceX has been flying a cargo-based version of the Dragon to the station since 2012, the new Dragon has been entirely remade for crew.

Saint-Jacques and Kononenko were the first to enter the Crew Dragon after opening the hatch. Though the company has shaken up the stodgy aerospace industry by designing rockets for rapid reusability, and pioneering entertaining, informative live streams featuring young engineers, it's never flown astronauts. It's also the first American spaceship made for people to be launched into orbit since 2011. But if SpaceX's most recent test goes according to plan, that may soon change. President Donald Trump congratulated SpaceX in a tweet Saturday afternoon. Dragon will spend five days attached to the space station as astronauts continue tests on the capsule before it hurtles back to Earth. "And we're going to put the dads on top later this summer". In case you were wondering, yes, the sensor-laden mannequin is named after Ellen Ripley from the "Alien" movie franchise.

NASA's Commercial Crew Program is working with Boeing and SpaceX to design, build, test and operate safe, reliable and cost-effective human transportation systems to low-Earth orbit.

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