SpaceX Launches Capsule On Test Run To International Space Station

Pat Wise
March 3, 2019

An estimated 5,000 NASA and contractor employees, tourists and journalists gathered in the wee hours at Kennedy Space Center with the SpaceX launch team, as the Falcon 9 rocket blasted off before dawn from the same spot where Apollo moon rockets and space shuttles once soared.

The US may have moved one step closer to weaning itself off its reliance on Russian Federation to get astronauts into space as SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule has embarked on its first test mission to the International Space Station. In fact, NASA astronauts could be traveling on board in a Crew Dragon trial flight as early as July this year.

SpaceX's capsule is now en route to the International Space Station, which flies about 254 miles above Earth at tremendous speeds: about 10 times faster than a bullet.

NASA astronaut Doug Hurley, slated to be on the first SpaceX test flight with humans, said the prospect of the mission "is pretty exciting".

NASA stopped its Space Shuttle programme eight years ago. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going.

"Today represents a new era in space flight" said Jim Bridenstine, head of the USA space agency who sees the launch as a step toward the privatization of low Earth orbit.

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

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For SpaceX, sending an astronaut into orbit would be a culmination of years of hard work and high-risk investment. In 2014, as part of the "commercial crew" program, the agency awarded contracts worth a combined $6.8 billion to SpaceX and Boeing to develop spacecraft capable of flying up to four astronauts to the station at a time.

"We are not in a space race, " he said. SpaceX and Boeing are leading that charge, so the successful Crew Dragon launch represents a major milestone moment. The spacecraft is the first commercially built vehicle designed for humans to fly to the space station.

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

Those Soyuz contracts were set to run out in 2019 and NASA recently moved to secure a couple more seats for late 2019 and the spring of 2020 in case Boeing and SpaceX aren't ready this year.

Bridenstine said he was "100 per cent confident" those flights would happen this year.

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

The docking represents a "very critical mission", Kirk Shireman, the manager of NASA's space station program, told reporters last week. "And then re-entry", Musk said at a press conference, held in the Kennedy Space Center, when asked which stages of the Dragon 2 mission he anxious about most.

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