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.

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