Early Saturday morning, SpaceX successfully launched its Crew Dragon capsule from the NASA Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, making it the first ever commercial spacecraft to leave Earth. Around 0900 GMT, Dragon was 3,000 meters away, Nasa said. The only passenger is a life-size test dummy, named Ripley from the "Alien" movies.
Under a contract with NASA, SpaceX developed Crew Dragon on the basis of Dragon cargo ship, which flies to the ISS since 2012.
With both ships moving through space at almost five miles per second, the new crew capsule halted and briefly reversed course to demonstrate its ability to stop an approach and retreat on command if problems develop.
SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft. The astronauts wore oxygen masks and hoods until getting the all-clear. But the lessons learned should improve safety when two NASA astronauts strap into a Dragon as early as July.
A member of SpaceX's mission control center called it "unbelievable news".
A privately-funded rocket has taken a major step towards once-again sending American astronauts into space from United States soil.
"I know you heard the applause and all the clapping that went along with the accomplishment today and so it's just one more milestone that gets us ready for our flight coming up here".
SpaceX has made 16 space station deliveries over the past seven years. After opening its nose cone for navigational purposes, Dragon is now spending about 24 hours performing a series of phasing maneuvers to bring it toward the International Space Station, where it will dock at around 6am ET Sunday. The capsule's nose cap was wide open like a dragon's mouth, to expose the docking mechanism. Dragon 1, which has been flying cargo resupply missions to the ISS since 2012, only maneuvered close enough to be grappled by the station's robotic arm, which then moved the spacecraft into position to be berthed.
The Dragon will approach the 400km-high station from the front and use its computers and sensors to guide itself in. The capsule will remain at the ISS for another five days.
Shotwell said she looks at the Earth's population and sees billions of potential customers for future SpaceX flights that feature tourists instead of astronauts."The work we're doing, and others as well, will completely change how we think about our world, our solar system, and candidly, life on Earth", she said.
A concern over Dragon's docking abort procedures was raised by the Russian space agency Roscosmos, one of NASA's worldwide partners in the ISS program.
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