HAWTHORNE (CNS) — The Crew Dragon capsule built by Hawthorne-based SpaceX was on its way to the International Space Station on Saturday following its launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida.
The “successful launch marks a new chapter in American excellence, getting us closer to once again flying American astronauts on American rockets from American soil,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said.
“I proudly congratulate the SpaceX and NASA teams for this major milestone in our nation’s space history. This first launch of a space system designed for humans built and operated by a commercial company through a public-private partnership is a revolutionary step on our path to get humans to the Moon, Mars and beyond.”
The Crew Dragon, a stepped-up version of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft used to carry cargo to the Space Station, launched around 11:50 p.m. California time Friday, propelled by a Falcon 9 rocket. The Crew Dragon mission is unmanned, testing the new ship’s capabilities and ability to self-dock at the ISS.
The spaceship is expected to arrive at its destination at about 3 a.m. California time today.
Cargo-carrying Dragon capsules are usually captured by the Space Station’s robotic arms and brought into the docking bay. The Crew Dragon is designed to dock and un-dock on its own.
A manned spaceflight has not been launched on U.S. soil since 2011 with the final flight of the Space Shuttle Atlantis.
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 then, according to Reuters, which adds that plans call for rockets built by both companies to carry astronauts into space.
The Crew Dragon is carrying a sensor-laden mannequin, outfitted in a SpaceX spacesuit, along with about 400 pounds of supplies and equipment.
The ship will remain docked at the station until 11:30 p.m. Pacific time Thursday, when it begins its journey back to Earth. It is expected to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean about six hours later.