The company's Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule blasted off on schedule at 2:49 a.m. Saturday. The only passenger is a life-size test dummy, named Ripley from the "Alien" movies.
The Saturday morning launch went off without a hitch, much to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk's relief. Engineers will be carefully watching sound, vibration and other stresses on the spacecraft, while monitoring the life-support, communication and propulsion systems.
"Just super excited to see it", Behnken said minutes after the link-up.
A crowd cheered as the rocket blasted off in a ball of fire and smoke and flash of light early Saturday, within minutes reaching speeds upwards of 4,000 miles per hour as it gained altitude.
The dummy in the capsule - which SpaceX's Hans Koenigsmann prefers to call a "smartie" - is fitted with monitors to test the forces to which future astronauts will be subjected on take-off and when they return to the Earth's atmosphere and then splash down in the Atlantic, slowed down by giant parachutes.
"Congratulations to all nations, private space firms and individuals who wake up every day driven by the magic of exploration", American astronaut Anne McClain, the third crew member on the station, said at a welcoming ceremony broadcast over NASA TV.
Commercial Crew has been the liaison between the United States space agency and the collection of private ventures exploring commercial space travel since the end of the space shuttle program and has been working for years building up to this summers anticipated manned mission.
Starliner and Dragon 2 – via Nathan Koga for NSF L2
NASA has had to hitch rides with Russian space vehicles to get its astronauts to the space station since NASA retired the space shuttle program in 2011, reportedly paying about $82 million a seat.
"Welcome to the new era in spaceflight", he said.
In this photo provided by NASA, the SpaceX Crew Dragon is pictured about 20 meters (66 feet) away from the International Space Station‚Äôs Harmony module, Sunday, March 3, 2019.
A concern over Dragon's docking abort procedures was raised by the Russian space agency Roscosmos, one of NASA's global partners in the ISS program. During operational crew missions, Dragon will be able to carry approximately 50 kg of cargo to and from the station, in addition to the crew.
It can carry as many as seven people and has three windows, emergency-abort engines that can pull the capsule to safety, and streamlined controls, with just 30 buttons and touch screens, compared with the space shuttle cockpit's 2,000 switches and circuit breakers.
The nosecone of Dragon opened to reveal the docking port and forward-facing Draco thrusters, and the first of a series of burns to gradually match the ISS's orbit was completed.More news: Local 10 reporter Cody Weddle detained in Venezuela
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