Crew Dragon gets ready for first liftoff

Crew Dragon gets ready for first liftoff

SpaceX has flown 16 missions to ISS using their Dragon cargo capsule, but this is their first full flight of the redesigned Dragon 2 crew capsule, with seats on the inside for six crewmembers, life support systems, controls, and additional safety precautions should anything go wrong during launch or landing.

The rocket blasted off without incident at 2:49 a.m. from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, lighting up Florida's coastline.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, left, speaks at a news conference with astronauts, from second left, Doug Hurley, Bob Behnken, Mike Hopkins and Victor Glover before Saturday's Falcon 9 SpaceX Crew Demo-1 rocket launch.

SpaceX is hours away from a demo test flight of its new Dragon capsule designed for astronauts.

"Today represents a new era in space flight" said Jim Bridenstine, head of the USA space agency who sees the launch as a step toward the privatization of low Earth orbit.

Crew Dragon rendezvous and docking coverage - 8.30am GMT (3.30am EST).

Since the shuttle Atlantis returned to earth on July 21, 2011, no United States astronaut has blasted off from American soil to go to the global.

This time around, the only occupant will be a dummy named Ripley.

Though Demo-1 is astronaut-free, Crew Dragon is carrying one lifeless - but lifelike - passenger, a dummy outfitted with a variety of sensors so scientists can measure the forces exerted on the body during the mission.

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SpaceX has been flying uncrewed versions of the Dragon spacecraft to deliver NASA cargo to the International Space Station since 2012.

I guarantee everything will not work exactly right and that's cool.

The launch of the rocket is expected to be broadcast on the NASA television stations as well as by SpaceX on Saturday morning.

It's a test flight without crew aboard, created to demonstrate the potential for carrying astronauts into orbit on a commercial spacecraft.

"We are not in a space race", he said. "But it's better to verify, make sure that it's safe and everything is comfortable for our astronauts going on the next flight of our capsule". That's cool. That's exactly what we want to do.

Early on Friday, Musk, who is also chief executive officer of electric carmaker Tesla Inc, tweeted a photo of the inside of Crew Dragon capsule with Ripley strapped inside.

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

The first crewed flight for SpaceX will take place some time in July. "Early on, our goal was human spaceflight", he said. "Human spaceflight is a core value of the business 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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