SpaceX's first crew test flight goes well so far — Dragon roars

LIFT OFF California's SpaceX firm has carried out a demonstration of a new rocket

LIFT OFF California's SpaceX firm has carried out a demonstration of a new rocket

Affixed to the top of a Falcon 9 booster, the rounded cone capsule of the Crew Dragon blasted off in a blaze of fire and smoke from Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 2:49 a.m. ET Saturday.

NASA has awarded SpaceX and Boeing Co $6.8 billion to build competing rocket and capsule systems to launch astronauts into orbit from American soil for the first time since the US Space Shuttle was retired from service in 2011.

SpaceX chief Elon Musk, who founded the company in 2002, was at the space centre for the occasion. "We have to dock to the station. But it worked - so far". "There's a pride in what the United States and its teams can accomplish".

A privately-funded rocket has taken a major step towards once-again sending American astronauts into space from USA soil.

"SpaceX's Crew Dragon, created to transport astronauts to the International Space Station from US soil, is flying on its own in orbit following an on-time launch".

For SpaceX, sending an astronaut into orbit would be a culmination of years of hard work and high-risk investment.

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SpaceX's first crewed mission, which will fly NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, could happen by July, according to NASA's most recent schedule. "I went over and asked what they thought, and how they felt about flying on it", Musk said. The unmanned launch is the first stage of the Demo-1 mission, created to test the capabilities of the capsule over the next week, as it heads toward the International Space Station.

The Falcon 9 blasts off, carrying Crew Dragon for the first time.

Boeing is now scheduled to follow SpaceX's flight with an uncrewed test launch of its Starliner spacecraft as early as next month. But he stressed there's no rush. "That race is over". Dragon 1 and attach it to the space station. The white crew Dragon is slightly bigger - 27 feet (8 meters) tip to tip - and considerably fancier and safer.

"We're only partway through the mission", Musk said. But now there are four seats, three windows, computer touch screens and life-support systems. Solar cells are mounted on the spacecraft for electrical power, as opposed to the protruding solar wings on cargo Dragons.

This photo provided by SpaceX shows a test dummy in the new Dragon capsule designed for astronauts. SpaceX and Boeing are leading that charge, so the successful Crew Dragon launch represents a major milestone moment.

The historic launch, which was celebrated with cheers and applause at Kennedy Space Center, comes after multiple delays pushed the maiden flight back from an expected launch in 2018.

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The space agency is turning to private taxi rides to reduce its pricey reliance on Russian rockets to get astronauts to and from the space station.

"We're going to take it day by day", Bridenstine said of the timeline.

"When you're here, right, there's a pride in the country".

The docking represents a "very critical mission", Kirk Shireman, the manager of NASA's space station program, told reporters last week. The first-stage booster used Saturday landed on a floating platform in the Atlantic, following liftoff.

"This is really a significant achievement in the history of American spaceflight", NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said prior to launch. "That would be pretty cool, " he said.

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