“We can confirm hard capture is complete,” flight officials announced at 3:02 a.m. California time.
The announcement came 27 hours after the Crew Dragon launched from Florida atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
It marks an historic first for a commercially built and operated spacecraft designed to accommodate a crew, NASA officials said.
The “successful launch marks a new chapter in American excellence, getting us closer to once again flying American astronauts on American rockets from American soil,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said after Saturday’s launch.
“I proudly congratulate the SpaceX and NASA teams for this major milestone in our nation’s space history. This first launch of a space system designed for humans built and operated by a commercial company through a public-private partnership is a revolutionary step on our path to get humans to the Moon, Mars and beyond.”
The Crew Dragon is an upgraded version of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft used for years to carry cargo to the Space Station. It is designed to carry up to seven astronauts to low earth orbit and beyond.
The current mission is unmanned, testing the new ship’s capabilities and ability to self-dock at the space station. The ship will remain docked through Friday, when it is expected to undock and re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere for a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.
Assuming the test flight goes well, SpaceX is scheduled to actually launch astronauts into space for a short demonstration flight this summer, possibly in July. NASA has already chosen astronauts Robert Behnken and Doug Hurley for the historic mission.
A manned spaceflight has not been launched from U.S. soil since 2011 with the final flight of the Space Shuttle Atlantis.
NASA has awarded SpaceX and Boeing a combined $6.8 billion to build competing systems to launch astronauts into orbit from American soil. SpaceX is the the first to test its craft. The first flight of Boeing’s competing Starliner is scheduled for April.
— From Staff and Wire Reports