Dragon roars: SpaceX's first crew test flight goes well so far

Autopilot The Dragon managed to dock itself without any input from astronauts in the space station or mission control

After months of delay, SpaceX's Dragon Crew capsule was successfully launched into space this morning, the first step of an unmanned crew flight that will set the stage for the first manned space mission to lift off from United States soil in almost a decade.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket blasted its brand-new Dragon spacecraft into orbit for the first time early Saturday morning, and so far everything has gone well. On Sunday, the ISS crew watched as Crew Dragon became the first American commercial space vehicle created to carry humans to dock at the station, according to NASA.

NASA awarded them contracts worth as much as a combined $6.8 billion in 2014 to fly USA astronauts to the ISS, splitting what's known as the Commercial Crew program to avoid a monopoly.

The Crew Dragon is a fully autonomous aircraft that can be controlled both by the onboard crew as well as SpaceX's mission control in California.

SpaceX's latest creation the Crew Dragon capsule lifted off from NASA's Kennedy Space Centre in Florida yesterday at 7.50am GMT.

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. The capsule will remain at the ISS for another five days.

Crew Dragon is occupied by a single dummy named Ripley - named after the protagonist of 1979 science fiction horror film Alien.

SpaceX rocket launches towards the International Space Station

Dragon was gradually climbing in altitude toward the ISS, which is orbiting the Earth at around 400 kilometers altitude and at a speed of 28,000 kilometers per hour - orbiting the Earth in 90 minutes.

The new space vehicle, carrying only cargo and a human dummy, launched Saturday from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

In this image taken from NASA Television, Sunday, March 3, 2019, a live screen shows docking scene of SpaceX's new crew capsule and the International Space Station Sunday, March 3, 2019. After allowing the air in the craft to mix with the air in the station, the astronauts returned without oxygen masks to properly welcome Crew Dragon - by installing window covers and checking valves.

Like Ripley, the capsule is rigged with sensors to measure noise, vibration and stresses, and to monitor the life-support, propulsion and other critical systems throughout the flight.

Dragon first stabilized seven kilometers behind the ISS, and 2.5 kilometers below it.

The launch marks the first under NASA's commercial crew program.

SpaceX aims to launch Behnken and Hurley as early as July. The Starliner is now due to make its first uncrewed test flight no earlier than April, and its first crewed flight no earlier than August. NASA now pays $82 million per seat.

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