Published: Sun, March 03, 2019
Science | By Michele Flores

SpaceX, NASA successfully launch Crew Dragon on historic test flight

SpaceX, NASA successfully launch Crew Dragon on historic test flight

The US may have moved one step closer to weaning itself off its reliance on Russian Federation to get astronauts into space as SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule has embarked on its first test mission to the International Space Station.

This handout photo released by NASA shows the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen seen on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for the Demo-1 mission on March 1, 2019 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The capsule is scheduled to reach the ISS by Sunday at around 1100 GMT, with a return to Earth next Friday.

Doug Hurley, one of the two astronauts chosen for the future first manned flight, said: "We will be ready when SpaceX and Nasa are ready for us to fly".

It's been eight years since Hurley and three other astronauts flew the last space shuttle mission, and human launches from Florida ceased. So, that is certainly going to be something new that we haven't done before.

If the trip goes off without a hitch and all goes to plan with a subsequent emergency escape test, SpaceX will begin transporting astronauts to the ISS later this year.

It's slightly bigger - 27 feet (8 meters) tall - and also launches atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. No private company has ever launched humans into orbit, and during a webcast of the launch, SpaceX employees could be seen packed into the main foyer of the company's headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., cheering each milestone.

The Demo-1 mission, SpaceX's inaugural flight with NASA's Commercial Crew Program, will provide the teams an end-to-end flight test to ensure the spacecraft and systems operate as designed before launching with astronauts. Dragon 1 and attach it to the space station.

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Boeing aims to conduct the first test flight of its Starliner capsule in April, with astronauts on board possibly in August.

"The Crew Dragon is a fundamental redesign, with hardly a part in common with Dragon", SpaceX founder Elon Musk said early Saturday morning, after the launch, during a news briefing. But he stressed it was more important to move deliberately so "we get it right".

The booster for Boeing's capsule is a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket built in Decatur, Ala.

Bridenstine said he was "100 per cent confident" those flights would happen this year.

Saturday's flight "is the next critical step in putting people on Dragon", he said.

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

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

"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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