Elon Musk's SpaceX successfully launches spacecraft designed for astronauts — Crew Dragon

Elon Musk's SpaceX successfully launches spacecraft designed for astronauts — Crew Dragon

The booster carrying the uncrewed Dragon lifted off at 1:49 a.m. CST from historic Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center.

The Crew Dragon capsule was launched on top of one of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets, and contains 400lb of cargo, as well as a sophisticated crash dummy named Ripley, a reference to Sigourney Weaver's character in the Alien franchise. SpaceX needs to nail the debut of the capsule before putting people on board later this year. It is scheduled to dock with the International Space Station Saturday morning.

Two NASA astronauts, Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, watched the spectacle from Kennedy's Launch Control. If all goes according to plan, Starship and Super Heavy will launch a Japanese billionaire and numerous other passengers on a round-the-moon mission in 2023, and perhaps send the first people toward Mars a few years later. So, that is certainly going to be something new that we haven't done before.

SpaceX's live stream starts from 12am on March 1 and cycles through preparation stages and launch before the capsule goes into orbit. The spacecraft will rely on its computers to autonomously fly the spacecraft gently alongside the station and then attach itself to one of the docking ports.

Bridenstine is optimistic about both SpaceX and Boeing capsules, saying astronauts should begin using them by this year's end. The SpaceX company employees cheered until the capsule reached orbit.

NASA turned to private companies, SpaceX and Boeing, and has provided them $8 billion to build and operate crew capsules to ferry astronauts to and from the space station.

Looking even farther out, "maybe there's something beyond space station", he said. While Falcon 9's have completed many successful lift-offs, today's was special because it is the first outing for SpaceX's new Crew Dragon module, created to take astronauts into orbit.

The mission, called Demonstration-1 or DM-1, is meant to show NASA that Crew Dragon is safe for future human crew members.

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"We want to make sure we keep our partnership with Russian Federation, which has been very strong for a long period of time", explained Bridenstine before the flight.

"We instrumented the crap out of that vehicle", said Kathy Lueders, the manager of NASA's Commercial Crew program.

"We're only partway through the mission", Musk said.

Boeing also received a contract in 2014 to develop a space vessel, the Starliner.

At Saturday's post-launch news conference, Musk said he'd be happy to fly on the revamped Dragon.

While the Dragon spacecraft launched successfully Saturday, the mission still has several significant hurdles to clear.

"The next big leap in a new chapter of US human spaceflight systems has left the pad", NASA wrote on Twitter.

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