SpaceX launches first Dragon crew capsule into space

03 March, 2019, 00:59 | Author: Bridget Leonard
  • SpaceX UNMANNED Crew Dragon V2 launched - Falcon 9 rocket leaves Kennedy Space Center | Daily Star

An estimated 5,000 NASA and contractor employees, tourists and journalists gathered in the wee hours at Kennedy Space Center with the SpaceX launch team, as the Falcon 9 rocket blasted off before dawn from the same spot where Apollo moon rockets and space shuttles once soared.

The only passenger is a life-size test dummy, named Ripley from the "Alien" movies. Today, SpaceX launched a new Crew Dragon capsule to demonstrate their readiness for manned spaceflight. It is scheduled to dock with the International Space Station Saturday morning.

But the lessons learned should improve safety when two NASA astronauts strap into a Dragon as early as July.

"It's been a long eight years", said Bob Cabana, the Kennedy Space Center's director and a former astronaut.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine hailed the launch as a "new era in spaceflight". In this case, the spacecraft will fly on to the space station and attach itself.

If the trip goes off without a hitch and all goes to plan with a subsequent emergency escape test, SpaceX will begin transporting astronauts to the ISS later this year.

At 2:49 a.m. ET, the American aerospace company founded by Elon Musk staged its first launch of Crew Dragon.


For SpaceX, sending an astronaut into orbit would be a culmination of years of hard work and high-risk investment.

From launch to splash landing, the mission is full of critical "firsts" for NASA's Commercial Crew program.

The space agency said in a statement last month that it has "confidence" the companies will be ready in 2019 and said the additional Soyuz contracts are meant to provide "flexibility and back-up" options. While Falcon 9's have completed many successful lift-offs, today's was special because it is the first outing for SpaceX's new Crew Dragon module, created to take astronauts into orbit.

Now that Demo-1 is in space, the next phase of its mission begins. But he stressed it was more important to move deliberately so "we get it right".

Boeing is also in the race to end NASA's eight-year drought of launching USA astronauts on US rockets from USA soil.

"Seeing a success like this definitely gives us a lot of confidence in the future, " Behnken said. Musk said the redesigned capsule has "hardly a part in common" with its predecessor. NASA is providing eight billion US dollars for SpaceX and Boeing to build and operate these new systems. 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.

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

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