SpaceX launches Crew Dragon's first test flight

03 March, 2019, 14:25 | Author: Kelly Sanders
  • Getty Images  Jim Watson

Crew Dragon is the first commercially operated spacecraft created to carry astronauts, and the uncrewed demonstration mission to the International Space Station is a test to make sure everything works before humans are rocketed into space in the capsule.

The rocket blasted off without incident at 2:49 am (0749 GMT) from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, lighting up Florida's coastline. Around 11 minutes later, the Falcon 9 boosters and capsule detached from one another successfully.

This time around, the only occupant on board SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule was a dummy named Ripley - but NASA plans to put two astronauts aboard in July, although that date could be delayed. It is scheduled to dock with the International Space Station Saturday morning.

If Demo-1 ends as well as it started, SpaceX should soon be ready to launch a "high-altitude abort test" using this same Crew Dragon capsule. "We're on the precipice of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil again for the first time since the retirement of the space shuttles in 2011", said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, to whom Musk gave a special tour of the pad on the eve of the launch.

"I proudly congratulate the SpaceX and NASA teams for this major milestone in our nation's space history", he added. That is, they are created to carry astronauts safely into orbit and return them to Earth.

Since the Space Shuttle was retired in 2011, NASA has been unable to fly people to space and has been forced to rely on Russian Federation to ferry its astronauts to the space station, the orbiting laboratory about 250 miles above the Earth.

Every successful stage of the mission - whose planning suffered three-year delays - triggered cheers at the firm's headquarters and at the Kennedy Space Center.

The docking represents a "very critical mission", Kirk Shireman, the manager of NASA's space station program, told reporters last week.

After its stay, the Dragon capsule will undock from the station, return to Earth and splash down in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast.

Crew Dragon also contains come 180kg worth of crew supplies and testing equipment. That will be the first launch of American astronauts aboard a US rocket since the shuttle program ended in 2011.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the unmanned Crew Dragon capsule on its nose sits at Kennedy Space Center.

Boeing's Starliner is slated to fly its first demo mission without a crew no earlier than April.

"Human spaceflight is basically the core mission of SpaceX", explained Hans Koenigsmann, the company's vice president of build and flight reliability.



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