SpaceX successfully launched its first manned mission at 19:22 UTC today from Cape Canaveral, Florida with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley in a Crew Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 Rocket. The event marks the first time a crewed rocket was launched from United States soil since NASA’s final Space Shuttle mission in July 2011.
SpaceX, backed by entrepreneur Elon Musk, is the first private company to send astronauts into space. The company has engineered and safely operated reusable rockets reducing overall cost of future space missions. After getting the Crew Dragon capsule into orbit, the Falcon 9 Rocket disengaged from the capsule returning to an Autonomous spaceport drone ship off the coast of Cape Canaveral. If all goes according to plan, Behnken and Hurley will catch up to the International Space Station (ISS) for docking tomorrow at 14:29 UTC.
The launch was originally slated for Wednesday afternoon, local time, but was scrubbed with about twenty minutes remaining in the countdown due to inclement weather conditions, with the launch target being pushed back to today. Unlike Wednesday’s scrub, however, today’s launch was without issue. “It was incredible,” Hurley indicated over radio following the nine-minute ride to low Earth orbit.
SpaceX’s launch is the result of its 2014 selection, along with Boeing, by NASA to be the first commercial contractors to provide transportation for NASA astronauts to the ISS.