Successful docking for SpaceX Dragon capsule

Autopilot The Dragon managed to dock itself without any input from astronauts in the space station or mission control

Autopilot The Dragon managed to dock itself without any input from astronauts in the space station or mission control

The Crew Dragon used the station's new worldwide docking adapter for the first time since astronauts installed it August 2016.

SpaceX, founded by billionaire Elon Musk, has made the trip to the ISS a dozen times before since 2012, but only to refuel the station.

"This is just an incredible sight for the SpaceX team to see the ISS crewmembers inside the capsule", SpaceX engineer Tom Praderio said during a live webcast of the hatch opening.

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. Russian Soyuz seats go for up to $82 million apiece.

That's the name of the space-suited dummy aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon that launched Saturday, a hat tip to Ellen Ripley, the heroine of the sci-fi movie series. Ever since, its only way of launching US astronauts has been to pay the Russians for seats on a Soyuz rocket. "We're pretty good at throwing things into space".

The unmanned capsule arrived right on schedule just before 6 a.m. (ET) on Sunday, following its early morning launch on Saturday from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

"We're looking forward to being one customer of many customers in a robust commercial market place in low-Earth orbit, so we can drive down costs and increase access in ways that historically have not been possible". It docked autonomously under the station astronauts' watchful eyes, instead of relying on the station's robot arm for berthing.

SpaceX rocket launches towards the International Space Station
Dragon roars: SpaceX's first crew test flight goes well so far

Like Ripley, the capsule is rigged with sensors to measure noise, vibration and stresses, and to monitor the life-support, propulsion and other critical systems throughout the flight.

Bridenstine said it's only a matter of time before astronauts are being carried into space aboard Dragons or Starliners.

It is not immediately clear whether that goal will be reached. "This day belongs to all of us". Musk jokingly said they better wait a week, until the Dragon returns, before responding.

A few minutes after first and second stage separation, the main stage successfully executed a controlled landing on SpaceX's droneship in the Atlantic - the company's 35th successful landing of a rocket booster.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon began its inaugural test flight early Saturday morning. Out of Russia's veteran Soyuz capsule and Boeing's forthcoming Starliner, Crew Dragon is the only capsule created to splash down at sea rather than land on terra firma.

In 2014, the United States space agency awarded contracts to SpaceX and Boeing for them to take over this task.But the program has suffered delays as safety requirements are much more stringent for manned flights than for unmanned missions to deploy satellites.

Astronauts Welcome SpaceX's Crew Dragon to Space Station (Ripley and Earth, Too!)
Whether you're new to the spacecraft or an expert, The Planetary Society's Crew Dragon mission page is your go-to resource guide. Its Falcon 9 rockets have re-supplied the space station 15 times in seven years, even though one of them blew up in 2015.

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