SpaceX rocket launches towards the International Space Station

The Dragon crew capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket at the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., this morning carrying the company's Dragon capsule toward a rendezvous with the International Space Station and a return to the days America flew American astronauts into space again on American rockets.

Though Demo-1 is astronaut-free, Crew Dragon is carrying one lifeless - but lifelike - passenger, a dummy outfitted with a variety of sensors so scientists can measure the forces exerted on the body during the mission.

If all systems work, SpaceX will put two NASA astronauts - Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley - in a Dragon capsule and launch them to the station in July.

That triggered cheers at the firm's headquarters and at the Kennedy Space Center.

About 5,000 NASA and contractor employees, tourists and journalists gathered Saturday to watch the launch.

The docking port itself is new and has never been used. After opening its nose cone for navigational purposes, Dragon is now spending about 24 hours performing a series of phasing maneuvers to bring it toward the International Space Station, where it will dock at around 6am ET Sunday.

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It's been eight years since Hurley and three other astronauts flew the last space shuttle mission, and human launches from Florida ceased.

The only way astronauts can get to space are via Russian rockets, yet the cost of using them has steeply risen over the years. Soyuz tickets have skyrocketed over the years; NASA now pays $82 million per seat. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going.

Though no human crew was on board, locked within the capsule was a flight dummy nicknamed Ripley and an anthropomorphic plushie of planet Earth created to indicate when the capsule had reached zero gravity.

"People have gone to space station on Soyuz", he said this morning during a post-launch press conference here at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, referring to the handful of private citizens who have flown aboard Russia's Soyuz spacecraft (and reportedly plunked down between $20 million and $40 million apiece to do so).

Now NASA said it is on the verge of recapturing some of the national pride that has been a hallmark of its human spaceflight program since the beginning of the Space Age. Both Boeing and SpaceX are hoping to have a manned flight later this year. "And I'm pretty sure it's not just me, I think everybody within SpaceX feels this and wants to get this right". "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. SpaceX plans to recycle the newly flying capsule for a high-altitude abort test this spring, along with a booster launched and retrieved a week ago.

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