SpaceX launches trial astronaut taxi service to space station

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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket took off Saturday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, carrying a new Dragon capsule created to carry NASA astronauts into space in the near future.

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.

SpaceX said the spacesuit for Ripley, apparently, a reference to the protagonist in the science fiction movie Alien has been embedded with sensors around its head, neck and spine to monitor how a flight would feel for a human astronaut. But a dummy in a white Space X spacesuits is inside, used to record data as a future reference for a real astronaut aboard.

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

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.

After traveling in orbit for 24 hours, it is scheduled to dock with the ISS on Sunday morning autonomously.

If it is able to dock successfully, the spacecraft would remain attached to the station for five days.

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

NASA doesn't expect this crucial shakedown cruise to go perfectly.

"Giant leaps are made by a series of consistent smaller steps".

The docking represents a "very critical mission", Kirk Shireman, the manager of NASA's space station program, told reporters last week.

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.

"We instrumented the crap out of that vehicle", said Kathy Lueders, the manager of NASA's Commercial Crew program. But he stressed it was more important to move deliberately so "we get it right".

Bridenstine is optimistic about both SpaceX and Boeing capsules, saying astronauts should begin using them by this year's end.

"Dragon confirmed in good orbit", SpaceX confirmed at 3:00 a.m.

At 2:49 a.m. ET, the American aerospace company founded by Elon Musk staged its first launch of Crew Dragon.

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. Then it would disembark and fly back to Earth, where it would fall through the atmosphere, a big test for the spacecraft's heat shield and parachute system.

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