SpaceX successfully launches unmanned crew capsule into orbit

SpaceX successfully launches unmanned crew capsule into orbit

Kenneth Drake
March 3, 2019

SpaceX successfully launched an unmanned crew capsule for the International Space Station on Saturday from Florida's Kennedy Space Center at 2:49 a.m. (0749 GMT).

California's SpaceX firm has carried out a demonstration of a new rocket and capsule combination.

A SpaceX rocket with a newly designed unmanned crew capsule blasted off on Saturday for the International Space Station, in a key milestone for Elon Musk's space company and NASA's long-delayed goal to resume human spaceflight from US soil later this year.

The historic launch, which was celebrated with cheers and applause at Kennedy Space Center, comes after multiple delays pushed the maiden flight back from an expected launch in 2018.

Those Soyuz contracts were set to run out in 2019 and NASA recently moved to secure a couple more seats for late 2019 and the spring of 2020 in case Boeing and SpaceX aren't ready this year.

The docking represents a "very critical mission", Kirk Shireman, the manager of NASA's space station program, told reporters last week. The next step is for Crew Dragon to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) on Sunday and offload its cargo, before returning to Earth 5 days later.

For SpaceX, which Musk founded in 2002, sending an astronaut into orbit would be a culmination of years of hard work and high-risk investment. NASA hasn't launched humans to space since 2011, when the Space Shuttle program ended.

Two NASA astronauts, Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, watched the spectacle from Kennedy's Launch Control.

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No one is onboard the craft for the test flight with the exception of a test dummy named Ripley.

It pays Russian Federation to get its people up to the ISS orbiting research facility at a cost of $82 million per head for a round trip. "We're going to learn a ton from this mission". "Right now, the date is July and that's what we're planning for, but if we change that date we'll make sure people know when it's the right time".

SpaceX and Boeing have contracts worth up to $2.6 billion and $4.2 billion, respectively.

Hans Koenigsmann, Vice President of Mission Assurance at SpaceX said Ripley was vital for future manned flights.

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.

At the press conference, Musk asked the two NASA astronauts slated to fly in Dragon: "You guys think it's a good vehicle?"

"Today represents a new era in space flight" said Jim Bridenstine, head of the U.S. space agency who sees the launch as a step toward the privatization of low Earth orbit. "That would be pretty cool, " he said.