Elon Musk's SpaceX successfully launches spacecraft designed for astronauts — Crew Dragon

The Dragon crew capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket at the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida

The Dragon crew capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket at the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida

The SpaceX rocket took off this morning from Florida carrying only a test dummy.

The US may have moved one step closer to weaning itself off its reliance on Russian Federation to get astronauts into space as SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule has embarked on its first test mission to the International Space Station.

US President Donald Trump has congratulated the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and private US aerospace manufacturer SpaceX on the successful launch of Dragon 2 spacecraft for its first unmanned test mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

Demo-1's main goal is to show that the capsule can carry NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS) safely. "We have to dock to the station". Then comes the real test.

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. 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. Shortly after liftoff, Musk asked them, "How do you feel about flying on it?" After the shuttle programme was shuttered in July 2011 following a 30-year run, Nasa began outsourcing the logistics of its space missions.

Bridenstine said he was "100 per cent confident" those flights would happen this year. But he stressed there's no rush.

"We can confirm hard capture is complete", NASA said. "That race is over".

Crew Dragon also contains come 180kg worth of crew supplies and testing equipment.

"We're only partway through the mission", Musk said. The capsule is equipped with a life support system and an emergency abort system. Solar cells are mounted on the spacecraft for electrical power, as opposed to the protruding solar wings on cargo Dragons.

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"We're going to be a customer", Bridenstine told reporters.

Because this is just a demonstration, there are no astronauts aboard - but there will be a space-suited mannequin. Freighters come up under the orbiting lab and are grappled by a robotic arm and pulled into a berthing position.

The capsule is created to dock and undock automatically with the space station.

On this occasion, we will see the crew version of Dragon approach the station at the bow and dock automatically, using a new design of connection ring.

Like Ripley, the capsule is rigged with sensors.

The Commercial Crew Program is a very big deal for NASA. This will have its equivalent demo flight in the next couple of months.

The docking port itself is new and has never been used. Musk jokingly said they better wait a week, until the Dragon returns, before responding. It marks the 35th such recovery by SpaceX. The company has developed a capsule of its own called the Starliner.

The Dragon is expected to stay at the station until Friday.

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