SpaceX successfully launches new Dragon crew capsule

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- In the very-early-morning hours of March 2, 2019, SpaceX launched the first unpiloted test of its Crew Dragon spacecraft, setting the stage for a docking with the International Space Station some 27 hours later. Although the Dragon capsule itself is created to carry a crew of up to seven astronauts skyward, the one that launched on Saturday - Demo-1 is its designation - is more of a test run: it's carrying a few hundred pounds of cargo, plus a sensor-filled dummy named "Ripley". "We have to dock to the station". Now Russian rockets are the only way to get astronauts to the 250-mile-high outpost. And if all goes well, a flight with humans could happen as soon as this year.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon - the first crew-capable spacecraft the company has ever produced - is about to be tested in a big way.

"We want to maximise our learning so we can get this stuff ready so that when we put crew on, we're ready to go do a real crew mission, and it'll be the right safety for our crews".

A concern over Dragon's docking abort procedures was raised by the Russian space agency Roscosmos, one of NASA's worldwide partners in the ISS program.

"From liftoff to splashdown, essentially she's going to tell us how she feels during the whole mission", a SpaceX senior dynamics engineer says in an informational video.

Boeing said it expects to test-fly its Starliner capsule next month, with astronauts on board possibly in August.

"We're only partway through the mission", Musk said. Aboard Dragon is Ripley, a mannequin fitted with instruments to gather data during the flight, along with 181 kg of supplies and equipment.

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Dragon 2, on the other hand, will not utilize the robotic arm, but rather use the onboard Draco thrusters to dock with the station.

The capsule is created to dock and undock automatically with the space station.

Flight operations team members - some of them new to this - also need the six-day trial run, according to Kennedy Space Center's director, Robert Cabana.

The launch comes nine years after NASA invested about £38million ($50million) into its Commercial Crew Program. "You guys think it's a good vehicle, right?" he asked Behnken and Hurley, seated alongside him.

The companies can still launch people this year - but things will have to go smoothly.

It's been a momentous Saturday for SpaceX, and for the future of crewed voyages into space.

The Falcon rockets are famous for being self-landing and reusable, and once again the boosters managed to land themselves onto a floating platform in the Atlantic Ocean. "That would be pretty cool, " he said.

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