Science

NASA, SpaceX make history with Crew Dragon launch

NASA and SpaceX make history. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched from Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley onboard. Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
NASA and SpaceX make history. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched from Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley onboard. Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Not too long ago, many considered Elon Musk‘s SpaceX a joke. Today it made history with NASA. The company successfully launched the SpaceX Crew Dragon carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley.

For the first time, NASA astronauts have launched from American soil in a commercially built and operated American crew spacecraft. SpaceX Crew Dragon is now on its way to the International Space Station.

Commercial space system

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken, foreground, and Douglas Hurley, wearing SpaceX spacesuits, are seen as they depart the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building for Launch Complex 39A to board the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft for the Demo-2 mission launch. Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
NASA astronauts Robert Behnken, foreground, and Douglas Hurley, wearing SpaceX spacesuits, are seen as they depart the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building for Launch Complex 39A to board the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft for the Demo-2 mission launch. Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

“Today a new era in human spaceflight begins as we once again launched American astronauts on American rockets from American soil on their way to the International Space Station, our national lab orbiting Earth,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a press statement.

“I thank and congratulate Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley, and the SpaceX and NASA teams for this significant achievement for the United States. The launch of this commercial space system designed for humans is a phenomenal demonstration of American excellence,” Bridenstine said.

He also said this was an important step toward the human exploration of the Moon and Mars.

Known as SpaceX Demo-2, this mission is an end-to-end test flight to validate the SpaceX crew transportation system. This includes testing the launch, in-orbit, docking and landing operations.

This is SpaceX’s second spaceflight test of its Crew Dragon and its first test with astronauts aboard. It paves the way for certification for regular crew flights to the station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Public-private partnerships

“A dream come true” was how Musk, chief engineer at SpaceX, described the historic launch.

“It is the culmination of an incredible amount of work by the SpaceX team, by NASA and by a number of other partners in the process of making this happen. You can look at this as the results of a hundred thousand people roughly when you add up all the suppliers and everyone working incredibly hard to make this day happen.”

NASA said that the program demonstrates its commitment to investing in commercial companies through public-private partnerships. It builds on the success of American companies, including SpaceX, already delivering cargo to the space station.