SpaceX, NASA Launch Crew Dragon on Crucial Test Flight to Space Station

SpaceX, NASA Launch Crew Dragon on Crucial Test Flight to Space Station

SpaceX, NASA Launch Crew Dragon on Crucial Test Flight to Space Station

SpaceX's sleek, new crew capsule arrived at the International Space Station on Sunday, acing its second milestone in just over a day.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - A SpaceX rocket with an 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 USA soil later this year.

The booster carrying the uncrewed Dragon lifted off at 1:49 a.m. CST from historic Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center. Although there was no crew aboard this time, SpaceX's reusable capsule is created to carry up to seven astronauts to and from Earth's orbit. Getting those spacecraft flying would mark the restoration of a USA crew-launching capability that was lost when the space shuttle fleet was retired in 2011.

After docking to the station, Dragon's hatch will be opened, and the station crew will board the spacecraft to perform inspections. The gumdrop-shaped craft also contained about 400 pounds of supplies and equipment.

"Today's successful launch marks a new chapter in American excellence, getting us closer to once again flying American astronauts on American rockets from American soil", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a press release.

International Space Station approach zones Two zones dictate how vehicles approach the International Space Station: the approach ellipsoid, which is 4-by-2 kilometers wide, and a smaller keep out sphere, which is 200 meters wide.

Currently, America relies on Russian Federation to launch astronauts to the space station.

U.S. and European astronauts, including Britain's Tim Peake, have begun their journey into space from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in central Kazakhstan.

Nasa Administrator Jim Bridenstine left and Elon Musk CEO of SpaceX after the launch at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral on Saturday
APNasa Administrator Jim Bridenstine left and Elon Musk CEO of SpaceX after the launch at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral on Saturday

Both SpaceX and Boeing face major technical hurdles with a variety of issues that must be resolved before piloted flights will be approved by NASA.

Boeing's CST-100 Starliner capsule is tentatively scheduled for an unpiloted test flight at the end of April, followed by the company's first piloted launch atop an Atlas 5 rocket in August or September.

"Congratulations to all the teams on a successful docking", NASA astronaut Anne McClain radioed Mission Control from aboard the space station.

Unlike the Dragon, the Crew Dragon and its launcher are man-rated.

Keeping its options open, the United States space agency in 2014 awarded contracts to both SpaceX and Boeing for them to take over this task.

SpaceX, founded by billionaire Elon Musk, has made the trip to the ISS a dozen times before since 2012, but only to refuel the station.

California's SpaceX firm is performing a demonstration of a new rocket and capsule system, which, if it works well, will be approved to carry people.

The launch comes nine years after NASA invested about £38million ($50million) into its Commercial Crew Program.

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