For the first time in history, a commercially-built and operated U.S. crew spacecraft and rocket, which launched from American soil, has docked with the International Space Station. The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft lifted off Saturday on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Known as Demo-1, SpaceX’s inaugural flight with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is an uncrewed mission designed to test the end-to-end capabilities of the new system. It brings the USA one-step closer to the return of human launches to the space station from the United States for the first time since 2011 – the last space shuttle mission.
“First a note of appreciation to the SpaceX team. It has been 17 years to get to this point, 2002 to now, and an incredible amount of hard work and sacrifice from a lot of people that got us to this point…I’d also like to express great appreciation for NASA,” Elon Musk, CEO at SpaceX, told SFcrowsnest. “SpaceX would not be here without NASA, without the incredible work that was done before SpaceX even started and without the support after SpaceX did start.”
“Today’s successful launch marks a new chapter in American excellence, getting us closer to once again flying American astronauts on American rockets from American soil,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine also told SFcrowsnest. “I proudly congratulate the SpaceX and NASA teams for this major milestone in our nation’s space history. This first launch of a space system designed for humans, and built and operated by a commercial company through a public-private partnership, is a revolutionary step on our path to get humans to the Moon, Mars and beyond.”
The public-private partnership combines commercial companies’ unique, innovative approaches to human spaceflight and NASA’s decades-long experience in design, development and operations of a crew space system.
SpaceX controlled the launch of the Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy’s Launch Control Center Firing Room 4, the former space shuttle control room, which SpaceX has leased as its primary launch control center. As Crew Dragon ascended into space, SpaceX commanded the Crew Dragon spacecraft from its mission control center in Hawthorne, California. NASA teams will monitor space station operations throughout the flight from Mission Control Center at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Teams in the space station mission center at Johnson are monitoring station crew members’ opening of the spacecraft hatch, entering Crew Dragon and unpacking the capsule.