SpaceX Crew Demo-1 lifts off on historic mission

Cristina Cross
March 3, 2019

The Crew Dragon capsule was launched on top of one of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets, and contains 400lb of cargo, as well as a sophisticated crash dummy named Ripley, a reference to Sigourney Weaver's character in the Alien franchise.

The new capsule blasted off aboard the Falcon 9 rocket built by SpaceX - run by billionaire Elon Musk - at 2.49am from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, lighting up the coastline.

Crew Dragon will dock to the forward port of the space station's Harmony module, which has been fitted with an International Docking Adaptor (IDA).

But the mission, which will last from Saturday morning's launch through a critical splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean on Friday, March 8, is far from over.

A few minutes after first and second stage separation, the main stage successfully executed a controlled landing on SpaceX's droneship in the Atlantic - the company's 35th successful landing of a rocket booster.

In 2014, the United States space agency awarded contracts to SpaceX and Boeing for them to take over this task.

Boeing also received a contract in 2014 to develop a space vessel, the Starliner.

SpaceX's Dragon Crew capsule set for historic test
Today, SpaceX launched a new Crew Dragon capsule to demonstrate their readiness for manned spaceflight. In 2014, the USA space agency awarded contracts to SpaceX and Boeing for them to take over this task.

"We want to maximise our learning so we can get this stuff ready so that when we put crew on, we're ready to go do a real crew mission, and it'll be the right safety for our crews".

While NASA has continued to fly probes and robots into deep space, and has even landed on Mars, the inability to fly humans has remained an embarrassment for an agency that beat the Soviet Union in the Cold War space race to the moon. NASA now pays $82 million per seat. Both Boeing and SpaceX are hoping to have a manned flight later this year. It will not be tested until April, in a mission similar to SpaceX's. No private company has ever launched humans into orbit, and during a webcast of the launch, SpaceX employees could be seen packed into the main foyer of the company's headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., cheering each milestone. Musk tweeted. True to his word, the toy rose weightlessly above the seat once the capsule was in orbit.

Under a contract with NASA, SpaceX developed Crew Dragon on the basis of Dragon cargo ship, which flies to the ISS since 2012.

"Early on, our goal was human spaceflight", he said. "We're going to learn a ton from this mission".

About 5,000 NASA and contractor employees, tourists and journalists gathered Saturday to watch the launch.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with a demo Crew Dragon spacecraft on an uncrewed test flight to the International Space Station lifts off.

The only way astronauts can get to space are via Russian rockets, yet the cost of using them has steeply risen over the years.

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