SpaceX rocket launches towards the International Space Station

SpaceX rocket launches towards the International Space Station

SpaceX rocket launches towards the International Space Station

A crystal clear view of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, its nose cone hinged open, on final approach to the International Space Station.

The spacecraft attached to ISS via "soft capture" at 5:51 a.m.

The rocket blasted off without incident at 2:49 am (0749 GMT) from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, lighting up Florida's coastline. Both astronauts were at SpaceX Mission Control in California, observing all the action.

The historic unmanned test flight marks the first time a commercially-built and operated American crew spacecraft and rocket was launched to the ISS. That "soft docking" was the first step in an hours-long procedure to latch the Crew Dragon securely to the station, hook up power and data connections, and open the way for hatch opening.

The launch of the new astronaut capsule on a week-long round trip to ISS is seen as a key step towards resuming manned space flights from United States soil after an eight-year break.

Bridenstine has explained that NASA wants to reduce costs in low orbit to devote resources to getting back to the Moon and assembling a small space station in lunar orbit in the 2020s.

"This is a critically important event in American history", Jim Bridenstine, the head of the U.S. space agency, told reporters, with the rocket and capsule visible behind him on the legendary launch pad where the Apollo missions to the Moon began.

Anne McClain, the American aboard the space station, says she's looking forward to saying hello.

As a result, NASA and SpaceX modified the mission design to constrain the thermal environment and ensure the thrusters would be ready for flight.

Boeing's Starliner capsule will be tested in April, at the earliest.

A concern over Dragon's docking abort procedures was raised by the Russian space agency Roscosmos, one of NASA's worldwide partners in the ISS program.

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

Those handpicked space travelers, astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, watched the Crew Dragon launch from Florida, then traveled to Hawthorne to see operations unfold along with the SpaceX team, according to NASA.

"We've got NASA "rocking" again". Musk also confirmed that Dragon's solar panels and electrical systems were operating nominally. "Unless something goes wrong I should think we'll be flying (people) this year; this summer, hopefully". During operational crew missions, Dragon will be able to carry approximately 50 kg of cargo to and from the station, in addition to the crew. SpaceX's new crew capsule arrived at the International Space Station, acing its second milestone in just over a day.

Saint-Jacques tweeted about the experience monitoring Crew Dragon's "first-ever approach and docking" to the space station, hailing it as "the dawn of a new era in human spaceflight!"

The launch comes nine years after NASA invested about £38million ($50million) into its Commercial Crew Program.

Related news