Following a successful launch early Saturday morning, SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft is set to rendezvous and dock to the International Space Station for the first time. Hitching a ride on a Russian Soyuz rocket costs roughly $80 million per seat, compared to the $51 million cost to fly on a SpaceX or Boeing vehicle.
Routine crew missions to the space station could start later this year.
Not since the retirement of the shuttles in 2011 has America been able to put humans in orbit.
At 2:49 a.m. ET today, SpaceX launched their latest Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Because this is just a demonstration, there are no astronauts aboard - but there will be a space-suited mannequin.
SpaceX's Dragon capsule lifted off atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Centre carrying a test dummy wired with sensors nicknamed Ripley, named after the lead character in the Alien movies. Thermal vacuum testing conducted previous year revealed less than nominal performance within the full thermal environment the Draco thrusters were expected to experience during the Demo-1 mission.
Reuters reported on February 21 that SpaceX and Boeing both must address significant design and safety concerns before they can fly humans. It was set up by entrepreneur Elon Musk with the specific intention of taking people beyond Earth.
While Saturday's SpaceX test mission is a crucial step in the oft-delayed project, there are questions about whether NASA can achieve its 2019 flight goal of manned flight.
"I really believe in the future of space and I think it's important that we be. out there among the stars". The private company overhauled the cargo Dragon capsule to make it safe - and comfortable - for passengers.More news: Death toll in Somalia bombing and clashes rises to 18
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The Dragon capsule is due to stay at the ISS until Friday when it will detach and begin the journey back to Earth. They are expected to be on the capsule's crew this summer.
How has Nasa changed since the shuttle?
It's been a momentous Saturday for SpaceX, and for the future of crewed voyages into space.
Agency officials still check off every step, but the approach is regarded as faster, more efficient and less costly.
"We're going to have more access to space at better cost than at any point in human history", Bridenstine said yesterday. The launch window is instantaneous, meaning that if something goes wrong or the weather isn't ideal, we wont' be waiting around to see if things change.
How should this mission play out?
The capsule successfully separated from the rocket about eleven minutes later, sparking cheers in the control room. Less than 30 seconds later, the first stage landed on the "Of Course I Still Love You" drone ship.
A single action item concerning Dragon's approach to the station was identified during the Flight Readiness Review (FRR) conducted before launch.