SpaceX astronaut capsule launched on ISS test mission

• SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with Crew Dragon spacecraft taking off from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

• SpaceX celebrated the successful launch on Saturday of a new astronaut capsule on a week-long round trip to the International Space Station a key step towards resuming manned space flights from U.S. soil after an eight-year break.

• This time around, the only occupant on board SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule was a dummy named Ripley but NASA plans to put two astronauts aboard in July, although that date could be delayed.

• The new capsule blasted off aboard the Falcon 9 rocket built by SpaceX — run by billionaire Elon Musk — at 2:49 a.m. (0749 GMT) from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, lighting up the coastline.

Step by step

• The first and second stages separated without incident, placing Dragon in the Earth’s orbit 11 minutes after take-off.

• Every successful stage of the mission whose planning suffered three-year delays — triggered cheers at the firm’s headquarters and at the Kennedy Space Center.

• The next tricky step for the capsule will be docking at the ISS on Sunday at around 1100 GMT, with a return to Earth scheduled for next Friday.

• It is to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean, and then return to Cape Canaveral. The mission aims to test the vessel’s reliability and safety in real-life conditions.

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