ISS Astronauts Meet SpaceX Ship Crew After Historic Docking (PHOTO, VIDEO)

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Demo 1 crew capsule lifts off from pad 39A Saturday

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Demo 1 crew capsule lifts off from pad 39A Saturday

JIM BRIDENSTINE: 2019 is the year we launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil for the first time since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011. No private company has ever launched humans into orbit, and during a webcast of the launch, SpaceX employees could be seen packed into the main foyer of the company's headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., cheering each milestone.

The capsule successfully separated from the rocket about 11 minutes later, sparking cheers in the control room, and began its journey to the space station.

They opened the hatch to Crew Dragon following standard leak checks and pressurization since the spacecraft completed its hard dock to the station at 6:02 a.m., the first autonomous docking of any US spacecraft to the International Space Station.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon is the first commercially built and operated American spacecraft designed for human passengers to dock at the space station.

The Crew Dragon is created to stay docked to station for up to 210 days, although the spacecraft used for this flight test will remain docked to the space station only five days, departing Friday, March 8.

CNN noted that the successful docking procedure was a first for SpaceX, which has already run Dragon 1 capsule cargo missions to the ISS but previously relied on the station's robotic arm to grab that craft and manually drag it to the docking port.

The Dragon brought supplies and test equipment to the space station where it will spend five days as astronauts conduct tests and inspect the Dragon's cabin.

In this photo provided by NASA, the SpaceX Crew Dragon is pictured just beside the International Space Station. Elon Musk says that they might fly people aboard it by summer if things go according to plan. The white crew Dragon is slightly bigger - 27 feet (8 metres) tip to tip - and considerably fancier and safer. They rushed there from Florida after watching the Dragon rocket into orbit early Saturday from NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

SpaceX said the spacesuit for Ripley, apparently a reference to the protagonist in the science fiction movie "Alien", has been embedded with sensors around its head, neck, and spine to monitor how a flight would feel for a human.

SpaceX aims to launch Behnken and Hurley as early as July.

"We're going to learn a ton from this mission", said NASA's commercial crew program manager, Kathy Lueders.

Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. It's had to pay to use Russian Soyuz vehicles instead. Once this is completed, the Dragon could be cleared to undertake a manned flight.

Boeing said it expects to test-fly its Starliner capsule next month, with astronauts on board possibly in August.

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