‘Astronaut’ dummy Ripley rides aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon bound for space station

‘Astronaut’ dummy Ripley rides aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon bound for space station

‘Astronaut’ dummy Ripley rides aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon bound for space station

After the Crew Dragon autonomously docked at the Harmony module, Expedition 58 crewmembers - NASA astronaut Anne McClain, Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko - opened the hatch to the spacecraft at 8:07 a.m. EST (1307 GMT).

The Demo-1 mission, SpaceX's inaugural flight with NASA's Commercial Crew Program, will provide the teams an end-to-end flight test to ensure the spacecraft and systems operate as designed before launching with astronauts.

Eleven minutes later, the capsule separated and a series of maneuvers initiated to set the capsule up to automatically dock with the ISS on Sunday. Dragon will spend five days attached to the space station as astronauts continue tests on the capsule before it hurtles back to Earth.

The Falcon 9 rocket carrying the capsule lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 2:49 a.m. ET, generating 1.7 million pounds of thrust and thundering into space from launch complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center.

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.

SpaceX chief Elon Musk, who founded the company in 2002, was at the space centre for the occasion.

It is to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean, and then return to Cape Canaveral.

The successful demonstration brings the US one step closer to once again sending people into orbit without relying on Russian space vehicles, which have ferried American astronauts to the International Space Station since NASA retired its shuttles in 2011.

SpaceX already has made 16 trips to the space station using cargo Dragons.

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The launch marks the first under NASA's commercial crew program.

NASA has been relying on Russian help to get to the space lab since it shuttered its shuttle fleet in 2011.

Also aboard is Ripley, named after a certain fighter of an Alien.

Doug Hurley, one of the two astronauts chosen for the future first manned flight, said: "We will be ready when SpaceX and Nasa are ready for us to fly".

SpaceX aced a key NASA review ahead of Saturday's launch.

SpaceX and Boeing are both building crew ferry ships in an $8 billion push by NASA to restore America's ability to launch USA and partner astronauts to space in the wake of the space shuttle's retirement in 2011.

Although the docking is a major milestone for human space flight, the Crew Dragon - and Ripley- are not home free yet as the most hard part of the journey may be re-entry. Boeing is looking to launch its Starliner capsule without a crew as early as April and with a crew possibly in August.

Its Falcon 9 rockets have resupplied the space station 15 times in seven years, even though one of them blew up in 2015.

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