SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, its first spacecraft designed to carry humans, took flight for the first time Saturday.
An uncrewed demonstration mission took off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida early Saturday, en route to the International Space Station.
The successful launch without people puts SpaceX one step closer to an historic landmark: Crew Dragon could be the first commercially built spacecraft to carry NASA astronauts to orbit. And Crew Dragon — along with a capsule called Starliner built by Boeing — could end the United States’ decade-long reliance on Russia for human spaceflight.
Elon Musk, SpaceX’s chief executive and lead designer, told a crowd of reporters that he was “emotionally exhausted” after launch. His rocket company’s main goal since it was founded in 2002 was to someday send humans to space.
“It’s been 17 years to get to this point,” he said. It took “an incredible amount of hard work and sacrifice from a lot of people to get to this point.”
“It was super stressful, but it worked — so far. We have to dock with the station, and we have to come back,” he added of the Crew Dragon launch, but some of the “riskiest” hurdles have been cleared.
SpaceX’s capsule, carrying a dummy called Ripley, named for the “Alien” protagonist Ellen Ripley is expected to dock Sunday at the International Space Station, which flies about 254 miles above Earth at tremendous speeds: about 10 times faster than a bullet.