Space X Crew Capsule Reaches Space Station

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SpaceX's Crew Dragon began its inaugural test flight early Saturday morning.

If all goes to plan, this will be a huge milestone in the journey towards commercial space travel. Cargo Dragon must be maneuvered with the station's robot arm.

If all goes well, the completion of the test mission will instill confidence in NASA, SpaceX and even the astronauts slated to go on the first crewed mission - the first from USA soil in eight years - that Elon Musk's SpaceX can perform the task.

As the capsule closed in on the space station, its nose cap was wide open like a dragon's mouth to expose the docking mechanism. While Falcon 9's have completed many successful lift-offs, today's was special because it is the first outing for SpaceX's new Crew Dragon module, created to take astronauts into orbit. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are set to fly the historic crewed mission.

If the six-day demo goes well, SpaceX could launch two astronauts this summer under NASA's commercial crew program. The only passenger is Ripley, a female mannequin whose name is a nod to the character in the popular Alien movies.

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NASA under the Trump administration and new leader Jim Bridenstine has made returning crewed launches to the United States a top priority. Now Russian rockets are the only way to get astronauts to the 250-mile-high outpost. That will be the first launch of American astronauts aboard a US rocket since the shuttle program ended in 2011. The docking mechanisms then pulled Dragon into a firm "hard capture" with the station about 10 minutes later. In a docking with a crew aboard, the capsule would likewise operate autonomously, though the astronauts might push a button or two and would be able to intervene if necessary.

"There is nothing more important for us than this endeavour, and we really appreciate the opportunity from Nasa to do this".

SpaceX employees at company headquarters in Hawthorne, California, cheered and applauded as crew Dragon pulled up and docked at the orbiting lab, almost 260 miles (400 kilometres) above the Pacific, north of New Zealand.

Saturday's launch, which was celebrated with cheers and applause in the control room at Kennedy Space Center, comes after multiple delays pushed the maiden flight back from an expected launch in 2018. The US space agency has been paying Russian Federation roughly $81 million for a single seat on the Soyuz spaceship every time it needs to ferry an astronaut to or from the ISS.

Shotwell said she looks at the Earth's population and sees billions of potential customers for future SpaceX flights that feature tourists instead of astronauts."The work we're doing, and others as well, will completely change how we think about our world, our solar system, and candidly, life on Earth", she said.