Crew Dragon: Elon Musk's SpaceX successfully launches spacecraft designed for astronauts

Crew Dragon: Elon Musk's SpaceX successfully launches spacecraft designed for astronauts

Carrying a mannequin and 400 pounds of supplies, the company's Dragon spacecraft was hurled into orbit on its way to the International Space Station in a crucial flight for both NASA and SpaceX, the California company founded in 2002 by Elon Musk.

Highlights from the SpaceX's historic Demo-1 Crew Dragon Test Flight from Kennedy Space Center.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the unmanned Crew Dragon capsule on its nose sits at Kennedy Space Center.

The capsule is scheduled to reach the ISS by Sunday at around 1100 GMT, with a return to Earth next Friday.

Among the estimated 5,000 launch spectators at Kennedy were the two NASA astronauts who will strap in as early as July for the second demo, Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken. SpaceX plans to recycle the newly flying capsule for a high-altitude abort test this spring, along with a booster launched and retrieved a week ago.

The space agency is turning to private taxi rides to reduce its pricey reliance on Russian rockets to get astronauts to and from the space station.

Boeing is now scheduled to follow SpaceX's flight with an uncrewed test launch of its Starliner spacecraft as early as next month.

NASA has awarded SpaceX and Boeing Co $6.8 billion to build competing rocket and capsule systems to launch astronauts into orbit from American soil for the first time since the US Space Shuttle was retired from service in 2011.

The Demo-1 mission, SpaceX's inaugural flight with NASA's Commercial Crew Program, will provide the teams an end-to-end flight test to ensure the spacecraft and systems operate as designed before launching with astronauts.

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

It's an unmanned test flight created to demonstrate the potential for carrying astronauts into orbit.

Boeing is also in the race to end NASA's eight-year drought of launching USA astronauts on US rockets from USA soil.

He said: "That is something we have to practise in preparation for crewed flight to make sure we're fast in the right spots, and have all the potential medical attention at the right time". But he stressed it was more important to move deliberately so "we get it right".

Speaking of the Atlantic, the reusable Falcon 9 booster that launched Crew Dragon successfully landed on the "Of Course I Still Love You" droneship drifting along in said ocean, approximately 10 minutes after liftoff.

At Saturday's post-launch news conference, Musk said he'd be happy to fly on the revamped Dragon.

"We're only partway through the mission", Musk said.

The docking port itself is new and has never been used. "That would be pretty cool, " he said.

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