Eon Musk's SpaceX crew capsule rockets toward space station with test dummy

Pablo Tucker
March 3, 2019

The Crew Dragon took off on the six-day journey with the help of a Falcon 9 rocket from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida in the early hours of Saturday morning.

The rocket lifted off at 2:49 a.m. EST.

Hans Koenigsmann, Vice President of Mission Assurance at SpaceX said Ripley was vital for future manned flights.

For SpaceX, sending an astronaut into orbit would be a culmination of years of hard work and high-risk investment. After NASA retired its shuttle fleet in 2011, the US has relied on Russian Federation to bring astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

This handout photo released by NASA shows the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen seen on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for the Demo-1 mission on March 1, 2019 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The capsule is due to stay on the ISS for a period of five days, where it will undergo testing from the station's resident astronauts.

SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk was on hand for the launching. And if all goes well, a flight with humans could happen as soon as this year.

Carrying 400 pounds of crew supplies, an Earth plushie toy, and a test dummy called Ripley, the rocket and attached capsule headed skywards without a hitch.

The historic unmanned test flight marks the first time a commercially-built and operated American crew spacecraft and rocket was launched to the ISS.

"From liftoff to splashdown, essentially she's going to tell us how she feels during the whole mission", a SpaceX senior dynamics engineer says in an informational video. Soyuz tickets have skyrocketed over the years; NASA now pays $82 million per seat. We went to the moon and we won. But he stressed it was more important to move deliberately so "we get it right".

It features four seats, three windows, touch-screen computer displays and life-support equipment, as well as eight abort engines to pull the capsule to safety in the event of a launch emergency. Previous Dragon vehicles have been grabbed and hauled to the docking port by the station's robotic arm.

Looking even farther out, "maybe there's something beyond space station", he said.

SpaceX and Boeing have contracts worth up to $2.6 billion and $4.2 billion, respectively.

"But we also want to make sure we have our own capability to get back and forth to the International Space Station".

The Dragon vehicle, launched by California's SpaceX company on Saturday, is created to make the attachment autonomously.

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