Carrying a mannequin and 400 pounds of supplies, the company's Dragon spacecraft was hurled into orbit on its way to the International Space Station in a crucial flight for both NASA and SpaceX, the California company founded in 2002 by Elon Musk.
The Crew Dragon capsule was launched on top of one of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets, and contains 400lb of cargo, as well as a sophisticated crash dummy named Ripley, a reference to Sigourney Weaver's character in the Alien franchise.
Among the estimated 5,000 launch spectators at Kennedy were the two NASA astronauts who will strap in as early as July for the second demo, Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken. If all goes according to plan, Starship and Super Heavy will launch a Japanese billionaire and numerous other passengers on a round-the-moon mission in 2023, and perhaps send the first people toward Mars a few years later. "We're going to learn a ton from this mission".
"This is really a significant achievement in the history of American spaceflight", NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said prior to launch.
Boeing is now scheduled to follow SpaceX's flight with an uncrewed test launch of its Starliner spacecraft as early as next month.
"Liftoff!" SpaceX tweeted at 2:49 a.m. ET. No private company has ever launched humans into orbit, and during a webcast of the launch, SpaceX employees could be seen packed into the main foyer of the company's headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., cheering each milestone.
If successful, the mission launched on Saturday and the upcoming manned launch will allow NASA to certify the new spacecraft for regular flights to the space station. "It's different", said Mark Geyer, director of the Johnson Space Center, where United States astronauts are based.
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A spokesperson for FlyDubai said the airline was also reviewing its schedule in light of the announcement. India's former ambassador to the United States says that a new red line with Pakistan has been drawn.
The Falcon 9 blasts off, carrying Crew Dragon for the first time.
The mission, called Demonstration-1 or DM-1, is meant to show NASA that Crew Dragon is safe for future human crew members.
The capsule is created to dock and undock automatically with the space station.
Bridenstine said he was "100 per cent confident" those flights would happen this year. "Right now, the date is July and that's what we're planning for, but if we change that date we'll make sure people know when it's the right time". Musk said the redesigned capsule has "hardly a part in common" with its predecessor.
"We instrumented the crap out of that vehicle", said Kathy Lueders, the manager of NASA's Commercial Crew program.
At Saturday's post-launch news conference, Musk said he'd be happy to fly on the revamped Dragon.
Dragon 2 is a reusable spacecraft designed as a successor to the Dragon space freighter. "And then re-entry", Musk said at a press conference, held in the Kennedy Space Center, when asked which stages of the Dragon 2 mission he anxious about most.