At the beginning of March, a commercially built and operated American ‘crew-type spacecraft and rocket system’ was launched from American soil, heading for the International Space Station.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft lifted off on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said: “Today’s successful launch marks a new chapter, getting us closer to once again flying American astronauts on American rockets from American soil. I congratulate the SpaceX and NASA teams for this major milestone in space history.
“This first launch of a space system designed for humans, and 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.”
Known as Demo-1, SpaceX’s inaugural flight with NASA’s ‘Commercial Crew Program’ is “an important un-crewed mission designed to test the end-to-end capabilities of the new system.
It brings the nation one step closer to the return of human launches to the space station from the USA for the first time since 2011 — the last space shuttle mission.
Teams still have work to do after this flight to prepare the spacecraft to fly astronauts. The best way to advance the system design was to fly this spacecraft and uncover any changes that might be required.”
Elon Musk, CEO and lead designer at SpaceX, said: “It has been 17 years to get to this point, and an incredible amount of hard work and sacrifice from a lot of people that got us here.
“I would also like to express great appreciation for NASA.
"SpaceX would not be here without NASA, without the incredible work that was done before SpaceX even started and without the support after SpaceX did start.”
Steve Stich, launch manager and deputy manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, said: “We are watching history being made with the launch of the SpaceX Demo-1 mission.
“SpaceX and NASA teams have been working together for years, and now we are side by side in control rooms across the country for launch, in-orbit operations and, eventually, splashdown of the Crew Dragon right here off Florida’s coast.”
SpaceX controlled the launch of the Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy’s Launch Control Center Firing Room 4 — the former space shuttle control room, which SpaceX has leased as its primary launch control centre. More details of NASA’s Commercial Crew programme can be found at the Web site (www.nasa.gov/commercialcrew