If this six-day test flight goes well, a Dragon capsule could take two NASA astronauts to the orbiting outpost this summer. While cargo Dragon spacecraft have been pulled in for their berthing with the station's robotic arm, the Crew Dragon is built to guide itself autonomously to its hookup.
NASA astronaut Bob Behnken, who will fly on Demo-2 - the first Crew Dragon mission to carry humans - later this year, watched the docking from mission control. The former astronaut said he was heartened to see that the new propulsion, communication, and other systems on Crew Dragon all were performing as expected so far, with the biggest tests yet to come with docking to the station, and reentry through Earth's atmosphere.
While SpaceX has sent plenty of cargo Dragons to the space station, crew Dragon is a different beast.
"From liftoff to splashdown, essentially she's going to tell us how she feels during the whole mission", a SpaceX senior dynamics engineer says in an informational video. It's carrying a dummy named: "Ripley" after Sigourney Weaver's character in the "Alien" Franchise.
"As a country, we're looking forward to being one customer of many customers, in a robust commercial marketplace in low Earth orbit, so that we can drive down costs and increase access in ways that historically have not been possible", he said Saturday following Dragon's launch.
Meanwhile, NASA has paid Russian Federation about $80 million per seat to send U.S. astronauts to space aboard Soyuz rockets - a fact that isn't very popular in the halls of Congress. "Just one more milestone that gets us ready for our flight coming up here".
Both companies have received billions of dollars from NASA to develop spacecraft capable of transporting astronauts safely to and from the station.
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Eleven minutes into the flight, the Dragon is let go and must make its own way to the station.
Boeing's CST-100 Starliner capsule is tentatively scheduled for an unpiloted test flight at the end of April, followed by the company's first piloted launch atop an Atlas 5 rocket in August or September.
Every successful stage of the mission - whose planning suffered three-year delays - triggered cheers at the firm's headquarters and at the Kennedy Space Center.
After the shuttle program was shuttered in 2011 after a 30-year run, NASA began outsourcing the logistics of its space missions.
"We instrumented the crap out of that vehicle", said Kathy Lueders, the manager of NASA's Commercial Crew program.
"Congratulations to all of the teams on a successful docking", Anne McClain, the NASA astronaut now on the station, said shortly after the spacecraft docked. 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.