SpaceX Dragon reaches International Space Station

SpaceX rocket launches towards the International Space Station

The company's Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule blasted off on schedule at 2:49 a.m. Saturday.

The dummy is nicknamed Ripley, in honour of Ellen Ripley, the fictional character played by Sigourney Weaver in the 1979 film, Alien, Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX's vice president of Build and Flight Reliability, revealed on Thursday in a pre-launch news briefing.

The Dragon should reach the space station Sunday.

The current schedule calls for NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Robert Behnken to take their seats on the next Crew Dragon demonstration flight in July.

The mission also marks a significant step toward to the return of human launches to the space station on a US-built spacecraft from U.S. soil since 2011.

SpaceX chief Elon Musk, who founded the company in 2002, was at the space centre for the occasion.

Like Ripley, the capsule is rigged with sensors to measure noise, vibration and stresses, and to monitor the life-support, propulsion and other critical systems throughout the flight.

SpaceX rocket launches towards the International Space Station

"Man, we were all working so hard to get to the start of flying this new vehicle-it was super exhilarating", he said. 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.

It launched on Saturday 1 March and will stay attached to the ISS docking station until 8 March, when it will detach and return to earth.

Everything will have to function according to a strict plan: the separation of the capsule and the rocket, the 27 hours orbiting towards the space station and then docking with it."We instrumented the crap out of that vehicle", said Kathy Lueders, the manager of NASA's Commercial Crew program.

"Welcome to the new era in space flight", McClain said from inside the capsule, framed by Ripley and Little Earth.

ABOVE VIDEO: Highlights from the SpaceX's historic Demo-1 Crew Dragon Test Flight from Kennedy Space Center. Astronauts in the USA have been relying on Russian Soyuz rockets since NASA's fleet was retired in 2011, but those seats are costly.

Dragon crew capsules will splashdown in the Atlantic not far from Kennedy. When certified to be finally safe for humans, the Crew Dragon has the capacity to carry at most four crew members. Once this is completed, the Dragon could be cleared to undertake a manned flight.

In 2012, SpaceX made history when the Dragon became the first commercial spacecraft to deliver cargo to the ISS.




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