SpaceX Dragon capsule successfully docked to ISS

The Dragon crew capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket at the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida

America's newest capsule for astronauts rocketed from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Saturday toward the International Space Station on a high-stakes test flight.

The rocket blasted off without incident at 2:49 am (0749 GMT) from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, lighting up Florida's coastline.

However, the test flight is training for the next space demo, possibly this summer, when two astronauts strap in.

Boeing's Starliner is slated to fly its first demo mission without a crew no earlier than April.

Whether you're new to the spacecraft or an expert, The Planetary Society's Crew Dragon mission page is your go-to resource guide.

Ripley and the capsule are rigged with sensors to measure noise, vibration and stresses and monitor the life-support, propulsion and other critical systems. GNC system performance must be demonstrated during ascent, on-orbit operations, and reentry.

SpaceX chief Elon Musk, who founded the company in 2002, was at the space centre for the occasion. Musk is also the CEO of electric carmaker Tesla.

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Saint-Jacques and Kononenko were the first to enter the Crew Dragon after opening the hatch. 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.

No astronauts were riding the Crew Dragon for this flight. Crew now aboard the ISS completed a checkout of the docking port in advance of Saturday's launch, and verified the docking system was "go" for docking. Around 0900 GMT, Dragon was 3,000 meters away, Nasa said. The view from cameras inside the Crew Dragon showed the station's docking port at the center of the display, the same view approaching astronauts will have later this year. SpaceX employees at company headquarters in Hawthorne, California, cheered the docking, then burst into applause again when the Dragon's latches were secured.

The Dragon is expected to stay at the station until Friday. It is scheduled to dock with the International Space Station Saturday morning.

With the sun getting low on the horizon as the station passed beneath Australia, Mission Control in Houston opted to wait for more uniform lighting, so Dragon paused until after sunset.

These will record the forces and the environment experienced inside the capsule. The dates of the start of flights by both companies were repeatedly postponed. Lessons learned, including the addition of heaters to the thrusters' fuel lines, will allow the removal of those thermal constraints for the Demo-2 mission.

Spectacular video from the station showed the sleek capsule, its nose cone hinged open to reveal its docking mechanism, moving in slowly against the deep black of space. Aboard Dragon is Ripley, a mannequin fitted with instruments to gather data during the flight, along with 181 kg of supplies and equipment. The craft will remain docked for five days before de-orbiting and splashing into the Atlantic at the end of next week. The mission will not be complete until the spacecraft safely departs from the station and deploys parachutes as part of its splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.

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