Elon Musk’s company SpaceX has successfully launched the first commercial spaceship designed for NASA astronauts.
The Crew Dragon spaceship was sent into orbit for the first time this morning (March 2), marking the first time a commercial spaceship designed for humans has left Earth.
According to Business Insider, the rocket is designed for seven NASA astronauts, though no humans were on board the Crew Dragon for its first flight.
Instead, the ship’s only passenger was a crash-test dummy named Ripley. The capsule is set to deliver 400lbs of cargo to the International Space Station as part of a roughly six-day long demonstration mission named Demo-1.
Soon, there will be a Dragon on its way to space! 🐉 Set to launch at 2:49am ET on Saturday, March 2, @SpaceX’s #CrewDragon is vertical and set for its mission to the @Space_Station. Learn more about how we will #LaunchAmerica: https://t.co/cg2mSfoPfM pic.twitter.com/lWPbIWFKyP
— NASA (@NASA) March 1, 2019
Crew Dragon must successfully dock at the Space Station and drop off its cargo before safely returning Ripley to Earth over the next week.
If the mission goes as planned, NASA could send some real-life humans up on the spaceship as soon as July, Business Insider report.
The ship is especially important for the US as yesterday’s launch was the first time in eight years any American spaceship made for people has been sent into orbit, since NASA retired its space shuttles in 2011.
You may be wondering why @SpaceX’s #CrewDragon launches on Saturday, March 2 at 2:49am ET. It’s science! We have to complete many steps — down to milliseconds — to sync the launch to rendezvous with the @Space_Station. Here’s a look at the timeline: https://t.co/cP1HuVwg6c pic.twitter.com/fJCvzTo8Y7
— NASA (@NASA) March 1, 2019
Speaking about the significance of Crew Dragon, William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations, called Demo-1 ‘an absolutely critical first step’ toward ‘eventually returning crewed launch capability back here to the US.’
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) March 2, 2019
In a briefing before the launch, Kirk Shireman, who manages the space station program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, said:
Demo-1 is a flight test, it absolutely is, although we view it also as a real mission, a very critical mission.
The ISS still has three people on board, and so this vehicle coming up to the ISS for the first time — it has to work.
Hopefully the mission will go as planned!
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.