At 3:22 pm EDT a SpaceX rocket with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley successfully launched on a mission to test the new Crew Dragon capsule.
The two astronauts will spend about 19 hours catching up the International Space Station (ISS) where they will spend at least six weeks. NASA has yet to decide on how long they’ll stay. That will in part depend on how the Crew Dragon capsule performs.
During the flight to the ISS, Bob and Doug are testing a variety of systems on the spacecraft to see how the new vehicle performs.
The crew is expected to arrive at the ISS tomorrow at around 10:30 am EDT.
As with the previous attempt on Wednesday, the weather was an issue throughout the launch countdown. However, as the launch countdown proceeded the weather cleared enough allowing launch managers to give the mission a GO for launch.
This is the first time the US has launched a new rocket and capsule in 39 years. At that time US was preparing for the Space Shuttle era. It’s also been nine years since the US last launched astronauts on an American rocket from American soil.
The mission is also notable in that it’s the first time a private commercial company has designed and built its own rocket and spacecraft with NASA as the customer. Think of SpaceX as a taxi service. It also an important milestone for SpaceX as it plans to send private astronauts to space and builds towards its own missions to the Moon and eventually Mars.
SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has made it clear his goal is to make humanity a multi-planetary species. Today’s launch was a critical milestone towards that long-term goal.