SpaceX docking: Crew Dragon capsule docks TODAY

SpaceX docking: Crew Dragon capsule docks TODAY

SpaceX docking: Crew Dragon capsule docks TODAY

SpaceX celebrated the successful launch on Saturday of a new astronaut capsule on a week-long round trip to the International Space Station - a key step towards resuming manned space flights from USA soil after an eight-year break.

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.

Though NASA and SpaceX were confident it would go seamlessly, it was a reminder that "there's always human life at risk", Patrick Forrester, chief of NASA's astronaut office at Johnson Space Center, said last week.

Enlarge / SpaceX founder Elon Musk shares a laugh with NASA astronauts Doug Hurley, center, and Bob Behnken, in the launch control room at Kennedy Space Center Friday night.

MARTIN: Bridenstine says the entire mission so far has been a success, from the launch to the docking at the International Space Station. The successful maneuver was also greeted with cheers from the Hawthorne, Calif., headquarters of Elon Musk's ambitious space company. Shortly after the docking, Ripley was joined by the three astronauts now living on the ISS who donned precautionary oxygen masks to check the atmosphere aboard.

The nosecone of Dragon opened to reveal the docking port and forward-facing Draco thrusters, and the first of a series of burns to gradually match the ISS's orbit was completed.

"A new generation of space flight starts now with the arrival of @SpaceX's Crew Dragon to the @Space_Station", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted.


"This flight test will inform the system design, operations and drive any changes that need to be made ahead of crew flights".

"Our honest congratulations to all earthlings who have enabled the opening of this next chapter in space exploration", NASA astronaut Anne McClain said from aboard the ISS during a welcoming ceremony for the Crew Dragon.

Crew Dragon also contains come 180kg worth of crew supplies and testing equipment. SpaceX's new crew capsule arrived at the International Space Station on Sunday, acing its second milestone in just over a day.

"We're on the precipice of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil again for the first time since the retirement of the space shuttles in 2011".

SpaceX may get there first, in July based on how the test schedules are shaping up, with Boeing following just a few weeks later.

The only way astronauts can get to space are via Russian rockets, yet the cost of using them has steeply risen over the years. If that final phase of the test goes well, NASA astronauts could be heading into space aboard non-NASA rockets as soon as summer 2019. 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.

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