• SpaceX celebrated the successful launch of a new astronaut capsule on a week-long round trip to the International Space Station — a key step towards resuming manned space flights from U.S. soil after an eight-year break.
  • This time around, the only occupant on board SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule was a dummy named Ripley — but NASA plans to put two astronauts aboard in July, although that date could be delayed.
  • The new capsule blasted off aboard the Falcon 9 rocket built by SpaceX — run by billionaire Elon Musk — at 2:49 a.m. (0749 GMT) from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, lighting up the coastline.
  • Every successful stage of the mission — whose planning suffered three-year delays — triggered cheers at the firm’s headquarters and at the Kennedy Space Center.
  • The mission aims to test the vessel’s reliability and safety in real-life conditions.
  • Ripley — nicknamed in honour of the character played by Sigourney Weaver in the Alien movies — is fitted with monitors to test the forces that future astronauts will be subjected to on takeoff and when they return to the Earth’s atmosphere and then land in the Atlantic, braked by giant parachutes.
  • The mission’s successful start provided some immediate reassurance.
  • In another success, the rocket’s first stage returned to Earth, landing on a platform 500 km off the Florida coast in the Atlantic.
  • It marks the 35th such recovery by SpaceX.
  • After the shuttle programme was shut down in July 2011 following a 30-year run, NASA began outsourcing the logistics of its space missions.
  • It pays Russia to get its people up to the ISS orbiting research facility at a cost of $82 million per head for a round trip.
  • In 2014, the U.S. space agency awarded contracts to SpaceX and Boeing for them to take over this task.
  • SpaceX’s new crew capsule arrived at the International Space Station on Sunday, acing its second milestone in just over a day.
  • No one was aboard the Dragon capsule launched  on its first test flight, only an instrumented dummy.
  • But the three station astronauts had front-row seats as the sleek, white vessel neatly docked and became the first American-made, designed-for-crew spacecraft to pull up in eight years.
  • TV cameras on Dragon as well as the space station provided stunning views of one another throughout the rendezvous.
  • If the six-day demo goes well, SpaceX could launch two astronauts this summer under NASA’s commercial crew program.
  • While SpaceX has sent plenty of cargo Dragons to the space station, crew Dragon is a different beast.
  • It docked autonomously under the station astronauts’ watchful eyes, instead of relying on the station’s robot arm for berthing.
  • SpaceX employees at company headquarters in Hawthorne, California, cheered and applauded as crew Dragon pulled up and docked at the orbiting lab, nearly 260 miles (400 kilometers) above the Pacific, north of New Zealand. T
  • hey burst into applause again, several minutes later, when the Dragon’s latches were tightly secured.