03 March, 2019
The only passenger is a life-size test dummy, named Ripley from the "Alien" movies.
Shortly after liftoff, the rocket's main engine turned off and the first and second stages separated.
NASA stopped its Space Shuttle programme eight years ago. "To be frank, I'm a little emotionally exhausted", he said. Dragon has to safely dock with the station, which is expected to happen Sunday morning.
In another success, the rocket's first stage returned to Earth, landing on a platform 500 kilometres off the Florida coast in the Atlantic. It marks the 35th such recovery by SpaceX.
He said the flight was the culmination of 17 years of "an incredible amount of hard work and sacrifice". "This one will be a big step!" retired astronaut Scott Kelly, NASA's former one-year space station resident, tweeted Thursday.
Crew Dragon launched to orbit for the first time ever this morning (March 2), kicking off an uncrewed, six-day demonstration mission to the International Space Station (ISS) known as Demo-1. Then comes the real test.
It is fitted with monitors to test the forces that future astronauts will be subjected to on takeoff and when they return to the Earth's atmosphere and then splash down in the Atlantic, slowed down by giant parachutes. SpaceX plans to recycle the newly flying capsule for a high-altitude abort test this spring, along with a booster launched and retrieved a week ago. Watch NASA's livestream of the event beginning at 7:30 a.m CST below.
It pays Russian Federation to get its people up to the orbiting research facility at a cost of $82 million a head, for a round trip.
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Boeing is now scheduled to follow SpaceX's flight with an uncrewed test launch of its Starliner spacecraft as early as next month.
But the program has suffered delays as safety requirements are much more stringent for manned flights than for unmanned missions to deploy satellites.
The capsule is created to dock and undock automatically with the space station.
The space agency said in a statement last month that it has "confidence" the companies will be ready in 2019 and said the additional Soyuz contracts are meant to provide "flexibility and back-up" options. It will not be tested until April, in a mission similar to SpaceX's.
SpaceX and Boeing are part of the $8 billion Commercial Crew Program. Across the country at SpaceX Mission Control in Hawthorne, California, company employees went wild, cheering every step of the way until the capsule successfully reached orbit.
In less than a decade, SpaceX has become a key partner for NASA, in addition to dominating the market for private satellite launches.
The capsule is now in orbit, while the Falcon 9 safely landed on one of the drone ships in the Atlantic.