Elon Musk's SpaceX test-launches Crew Dragon capsule

Theresa Obrien
March 4, 2019

SpaceX's new Crew Dragon astronaut capsule was on its way to the International Space Station on Saturday after it successfully launched from Florida on board a Falcon 9 rocket.

The test launch of SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule is scheduled for Saturday at 2:49 a.m. ET in Florida.

An estimated 5,000 Nasa and contractor employees, tourists and journalists gathered in the wee hours at Kennedy Space Centre with the SpaceX launch team, as the Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from the same spot where Apollo moon rockets and space shuttles once soared.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon will head to the ISS on its first test flight. 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. Accordingly, this is an absolutely critical first step in moving towards returning the crewed launch capability back to the United States, said William Gerstenmaier, the associate administrator with NASA Human Exploration and Operations.

The dummy is named as Ripley, after Ellen Ripley from the Aliens movie.

William Gerstenmaier, the associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA, said at a news conference last week that the launch "is an absolutely critical first step". "I thought maybe we'd have a 10 percent chance of reaching orbit starting out", Silicon Valley billionaire Musk said of his feelings when he founded the space company in 2002.

"I guarantee that not everything will work exactly right".

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SpaceX has held numerous space missions in recent years, all of them with varying levels of success.

SpaceX already has made 16 trips to the space station using cargo Dragons.

Crew Dragon undocking coverage begins - 5am GMT (2am EST). "But it's better to verify, make sure that it's safe and everything is comfortable for our astronauts going on the next flight of our capsule".

It will be the first commercial crew mission to visit the ISS. They will have the ability to act as a launch escape system in case the crew needs to abort before or after launch.

"As a country, we're looking forward to being one customer of many customers, in a robust commercial marketplace in low Earth orbit, so that we can drive down costs and increase access in ways that historically have not been possible", he said.

"It's been a long eight years", said Bob Cabana, the Kennedy Space Center's director and a former astronaut.

"This mission is an important step in returning human spaceflight to American soil". The three space station astronauts will enter the Dragon, unload the fresh supplies on board and then fill it with science samples and old equipment.

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