Dragon roars: SpaceX's first crew test flight goes well so far

The capsule is expected to reach the International Space Station on Sunday

The capsule is expected to reach the International Space Station on Sunday

"SpaceX's Crew Dragon, created to transport astronauts to the International Space Station from USA soil, is flying on its own in orbit following an on-time launch".

Though Demo-1 is astronaut-free, Crew Dragon is carrying one lifeless - but lifelike - passenger, a dummy outfitted with a variety of sensors so scientists can measure the forces exerted on the body during the mission.

Between today and March 8, SpaceX will aim to prove the safety and reliability of the Crew Dragon before astronauts can take the helm in June this year.

The Crew Dragon capsule is headed to the International Space Station (ISS) and if all goes to plan, it should dock there at 6 a.m. ET on Sunday.

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It's been eight years since Hurley and three other astronauts flew the last space shuttle mission, and human launches from Florida ceased.

"Man, we were all working so hard to get to the start of flying this new vehicle-it was super exhilarating", he said. "I proudly congratulate the SpaceX and NASA teams for this major milestone in our nation's space history".

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

The rocket blasted off without incident at 2:49 am from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, lighting up Florida's coastline. Across the country at SpaceX Mission Control in Hawthorne, California, company employees went wild, cheering every step of the way until the capsule successfully reached orbit.

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They both nodded. "Seeing a success like this, that really gives us a lot confidence in the future", said one of them, Bob Behnken. The Crew Dragon spacecraft unmanned test flight launched early Saturday morning. "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". The spacecraft is the first commercially built vehicle designed for humans to fly to the space station. He marvels at how the Dragon has just 30 buttons and touch screens, compared with the space shuttle cockpit's 2,000 switches and circuit breakers.

"We're going to take it day by day", Bridenstine said of the timeline.

"The Crew Dragon is a fundamental redesign, with hardly a part in common with Dragon", SpaceX founder Elon Musk said early Saturday morning, after the launch, during a news briefing.

"We're only partway through the mission", Musk said. The mission is a test to win the approval of NASA, which is set to use the technology later this year if all goes well.

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Musk anticipates eventually selling Dragon rides to private citizens, much as the Russians have done, first to the space station and then perhaps beyond.

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