Sci-tech

SpaceX launches trial astronaut taxi service to space station

SpaceX launches trial astronaut taxi service to space station

Elon Musk's SpaceX was due to launch an unmanned crew capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket early on Saturday, bound for the International Space Station, a major step toward National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) goal of reviving the United States human spaceflight programme this year.

The rocket blasted off without incident at 2:49 am from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, lighting up Florida's coastline.

The uncrewed flight, or Demo-1 mission, will provide SpaceX the chance to prove its spacecraft is safe, reliable and ready to carry live astronauts. No private company has ever launched humans into orbit, and during a webcast of the launch, SpaceX employees could be seen packed into the main foyer of the company's headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., cheering each milestone. NASA hasn't launched humans to space since 2011, when the Space Shuttle program ended.

Following the retirement of American shuttles, NASA paid companies such as SpaceX and Boeing about $8 billion to build and operate crew capsules to carry astronauts to and from the space station. It will remain docked there for about two weeks.

"The Crew Dragon is a fundamental redesign, with hardly a part in common with Dragon", SpaceX founder Elon Musk said early Saturday morning, after the launch, during a news briefing.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon began its inaugural test flight early Saturday morning.

After the Dragon spacecraft separated from the rocket, Musk said he checked in with Hurkey and Bob Behnken, the other NASA astronaut scheduled to fly on the first SpaceX crewed test flight.

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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.

It pays Russian Federation to get its people up to the ISS orbiting research facility at a cost of $82 million per head for a round trip.

"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. But now there are four seats, three windows, computer touch screens and life-support systems.

The capsule is created to dock and undock automatically with the space station.

"Previously, we would go close to the space station, and an [ISS robotic] arm would reach out and grab..."

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

"We instrumented the crap out of that vehicle", said Kathy Lueders, the manager of NASA's Commercial Crew program.