America's newest crew capsule rockets toward space station


Astronauts at the ISS have now boarded the capsule of the Dragon, which carried a dummy pilot and 90kg (200lbs) of supplies on its test flight. 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.

Crew Dragon next fired its thrusters to begin an approach initiation burn, which brought it inside the approach ellipsoid, a 4-by-2-kilometer egg-shaped zone surrounding the station.

SpaceX, along with Boeing, was awarded a contract to fly USA astronauts to the space station by NASA back in 2014.

The mission also marks a significant step toward to the return of human launches to the space station on a US -built spacecraft from USA soil since 2011.

America's newest capsule for astronauts rocketed Saturday toward the International Space Station on a high-stakes test flight by SpaceX.

The Crew Dragon is created to stay docked to station for up to 210 days, although the spacecraft used for this flight test will remain docked to the space station only five days, departing Friday, March 8.

Hours later, crew members are expected to open the capsule's hatch and hold a welcome ceremony for the craft.

Dragon will remain at the space station until Friday, when it undocks and aims for a splashdown in the Atlantic, a couple hundred miles off the Florida coast.

"Everything looks great", U.S. astronaut Anne McClain, who oversaw events from the station's big bay window, or Cupola.told Mission Control after looking inside Crew Dragon through a hatch window just before the crew entered.

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Two NASA astronauts, Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, watched the spectacle from Kennedy's Launch Control. At that point, it was visible as a point of light during orbital night; earlier, the crew had also commanded Dragon to turn on its flashing strobe light.

There was, however, no crew aboard the spacecraft, just a test dummy named Ripley, in a nod to the lead character in the Alien movies.

"The first day of a new era for the next generation of space explorers".

"We're going to have more access to space at a better cost than at any point in human history", said Bridenstine, adding he was "100 per cent confident" that a manned flight would happen by the year's end.

As a result, NASA and SpaceX modified the mission design to constrain the thermal environment and ensure the thrusters would be ready for flight.

Eleven minutes into the flight, the Dragon is let go and must make its own way to the station.

Next up, though, is Boeing, which is looking to launch its Starliner capsule without a crew as early as April and with a crew possibly in August. Russian Soyuz seats go for up to $82 million apiece.

Next up, though, should be Boeing, NASA's other commercial crew provider.