While Saturday's SpaceX test mission is a crucial step in the long-delayed project, there are questions about whether NASA can achieve its 2019 flight goal. Those contracts are set to run out this year.
Boeing said it expects to test-fly its Starliner capsule next month, with astronauts on board possibly in August.
An estimated 5,000 NASA and contractor employees, tourists and journalists gathered in the wee hours at Kennedy Space Center with the SpaceX launch team, as the Falcon 9 rocket blasted off before dawn from the same spot where Apollo moon rockets and space shuttles once soared.
"Looking forward to meeting her in person in a couple days", Anne McClain, an astronaut on the International Space Station, tweeted in response to SpaceX founder Elon Musk's tweet of Ripley. After NASA retired its shuttle fleet in 2011, the USA has relied on Russian Federation to bring astronauts to and from the International Space Station. NASA now pays $82 million per seat. Both Boeing and SpaceX are hoping to have a manned flight later this year.
The successful launch puts SpaceX one step closer to an historic landmark: Crew Dragon could be the first commercially built spacecraft to carry NASA astronauts to orbit. "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. "We're pretty good at throwing things into space".
"When you're here, right, there's a pride in the country".
Ripley's not just along for the ride: The anthropomorphic test device, as NASA calls it, is there to make sure the Crew Dragon is safe and comfortable for humans.
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The mission aims to test the vessel's reliability and safety in real-life conditions.
SpaceX and Boeing are part of the $8 billion Commercial Crew Program.
After the Dragon spacecraft separated from the rocket, Musk said he checked in with Hurkey and Bob Behnken, the other NASA astronaut scheduled to fly on the first SpaceX crewed test flight.
"Every mission is important, but this is even more important, said Koenigsmann, the firm's vice-president for build and flight reliability". Now a professor of human spaceflight at the University of Southern California, Reisman said the atmosphere was electric. "Human spaceflight is a core value of business of SpaceX".
In less than a decade, it has become a key partner for NASA, in addition to dominating the market for private satellite launches.
The capsule is now in orbit, while the Falcon 9 safely landed on one of the drone ships in the Atlantic.