SpaceX successfully launches unmanned crew capsule into orbit

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The Dragon should reach the space station Sunday.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule blasted off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on schedule at 2:49 a.m. Saturday. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the capsule lifted off from NASA's Kennedy Space Centre complex at 7.49am GMT from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The sky over the launch site was clear Friday, with meteorologists saying there was an 80 per cent chance of conditions being favorable overnight. "We've got to dock to the space station and come back".

"This one will be a big step!" retired astronaut Scott Kelly, NASA's former one-year space station resident, tweeted Thursday.

After the Dragon spacecraft separated from the rocket, Musk said he checked in with Hurkey and Bob Behnken, the other NASA astronaut scheduled to fly on the first SpaceX crewed test flight.

NASA did not want to rely on just one single vehicle, in case of accidents.

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

Planning has been delayed by around three years, with the first manned SpaceX flight still pencilled in for July, though officials frequently refer to the end of 2019 as a more realistic deadline.

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It will be fitted with monitors to test the forces that future astronauts will be subjected to on take-off and when they return to the Earth's atmosphere and then splash down in the Atlantic, slowed down by giant parachutes.

Though no human crew was on board, locked within the capsule was a flight dummy nicknamed Ripley and an anthropomorphic plushie of planet Earth created to indicate when the capsule had reached zero gravity.

If all stages of this test go according to plan, a final "in-flight abort test" will be the only remaining hurdle before SpaceX can begin sending people into space. SpaceX has been developing Crew Dragon under a $2.6 billion commercial-crew contract with NASA, after all.

In addition to substantially affecting human spaceflight, SpaceX has also launched payloads for countries including Kazakhstan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and, most recently, Israel. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going.

Reuters reported on February 21 that SpaceX and Boeing both must address significant design and safety concerns before they can fly humans.

Speaking of the Atlantic, the reusable Falcon 9 booster that launched Crew Dragon successfully landed on the "Of Course I Still Love You" droneship drifting along in said ocean, approximately 10 minutes after liftoff.

While NASA has struggled to develop its Space Launch System, an analysis from NASA's Ames Research Center found that the dramatically lower launch costs SpaceX made possible offered "greatly expanded opportunities to exploit space" for many users including NASA.

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