The crew of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon has reached the International Space Station as part of a historic test flight of the aircraft.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft was launched on Saturday from the Kennedy Space Center. The flight was the first in an American rocket since the conclusion of the Space Shuttle programme in 2011. It was also the first flight in a commercially built and operated aircraft.

Onboard NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) were NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley.

The Demo-2 mission was also the first launch forming part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The test flight will serve as an end-to-end demonstration of SpaceX’s crew transportation system.

“New era in human spaceflight”

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said: “Today a new era in human spaceflight begins as we once again launched American astronauts on American rockets from American soil on their way to the International Space Station, our national lab orbiting Earth.”

He added: “I thank and congratulate Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley, and the SpaceX and NASA teams for this significant achievement for the United States. The launch of this commercial space system designed for humans is a phenomenal demonstration of American excellence and is an important step on our path to expand human exploration to the Moon and Mars.”

Known as NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2, the mission is an end-to-end test flight to validate the SpaceX crew transportation system, including launch, in-orbit, docking and landing operations. This is SpaceX’s second spaceflight test of its Crew Dragon and its first test with astronauts aboard, which will pave the way for its certification for regular crew flights to the station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Elon Musk: “Dream come true”

“This is a dream come true for me and everyone at SpaceX,” said Elon Musk, chief engineer at SpaceX. “It is the culmination of an incredible amount of work by the SpaceX team, by NASA and by a number of other partners in the process of making this happen. You can look at this as the results of a hundred thousand people roughly when you add up all the suppliers and everyone working incredibly hard to make this day happen.”

The programme demonstrates NASA’s commitment to investing in commercial companies through public-private partnerships and builds on the success of American companies, including SpaceX, already delivering cargo to the space station

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