Falcon 9 lifts off from historic Launch Complex 39A and sends Crew Dragon to orbit on its first flight with NASA astronauts to the space station

Falcon 9 lifts off from historic Launch Complex 39A and sends Crew Dragon to orbit on its first flight with NASA astronauts to the space station

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Source: SpaceX

A rocket ship built by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company thundered away from Earth with two Americans on Saturday, ushering in a new era in commercial space travel.

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken in the spacecraft ahead of liftoff

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken in the spacecraft ahead of liftoff

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Source: SpaceX

The two men are scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station on Sunday for a stay of up to four months, after which they will return to Earth in a Right Stuff-style splashdown at sea.

Boeing received a $4.2-billion deal to develop a capsule called the CST-100 Starliner. (Source: SpaceX)

(Source: SpaceX)

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Source: SpaceX

NASA’s Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken rode skyward aboard a sleek, white-and-black, bullet-shaped Dragon capsule on top of a Falcon 9 rocket, lifting off at 3.22 pm from the same launch pad used to send the Apollo astronauts to the moon a half-century ago. Minutes later, they safely slipped into orbit.

United States back in the business of launching astronauts into orbit from US soil for the first time in nearly a decade

United States back in the business of launching astronauts into orbit from US soil for the first time in nearly a decade

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Source: SpaceX

“Let’s light this candle,” Hurley said just before ignition, borrowing the words used by Alan Shepard on America’s first human spaceflight, in 1961.

The astronauts arrived on the launchpad about three hours before the launch in Tesla Model X Sports Car

The astronauts arrived on the launchpad about three hours before the launch in Tesla Model X Sports Car

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Source: NASA

Meet the astronauts: Dough Hurley

Dough Hurley

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NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken ahead of leaving for Kennedy Space Centre

The first Crew Dragon spacecraft commander, Dough Hurley is a retired US Marine Corps Colonel who has previously flown on two spaceflights. He served in the Navy as a fighter pilot and trained to fly on F/A-18 Hornet and became a test-pilot in 1997. He was selected to be an astronaut in the year 2000. Hurley made his first spaceflight in July 2009 as the pilot for STS-127 followed by STS-135 aboard space shuttle Atlantis, the last mission in July 2011.

Meet the astronauts: Bob Behnken

Bob Behnken

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NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley, left, and Robert Behnken, wearing SpaceX spacesuits, depart the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building for Launch Complex 39A during a dress rehearsal prior to the Demo-2 mission launch | AP/PTI

Robert “Bob” Behnken is a US Air Force Colonel who is on his third trip to the space, having logged over 708 hours into orbit with over 37 hours of spacewalks. He flew into space with STS-123 in 2008 and STS-130 in 2010. Behnken has logged more than 1,500 flight hours and flown 25 different types of aircraft, according to his Nasa biography. He had been selected for the astronaut programme by Nasa in 2000.

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken in the newly designed space suits for the new flight missions

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken in the newly designed space suits for the new flight missions

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Source: SpaceX

A launch attempt on Wednesday was called off with less than 17 minutes to go in the countdown because of lightning

A launch attempt on Wednesday was called off with less than 17 minutes to go in the countdown because of lightning

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Source: SpaceX

On Saturday, stormy weather in Florida threatened another postponement for most of the day, but then the skies began to clear in the afternoon just in time. Nine minutes after liftoff, the 260-foot rocket’s first-stage booster landed, as designed, on a barge a few hundred miles off the Florida coast, to be reused on another flight.

While the duration of the mission has not been fixed, it is expected to last between 30 and 120 days, depending on the state of the Dragon capsule

While the duration of the mission has not been fixed, it is expected to last between 30 and 120 days, depending on the state of the Dragon capsule

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Source: SpaceX

Should the launch be successful, Nasa will end its dependence on Russia and the use of Soyuz rockets for sending and receiving astronauts into orbit

Should the launch be successful, Nasa will end its dependence on Russia and the use of Soyuz rockets for sending and receiving astronauts into orbit

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The Falcon-9 rocket being readied for launch (Source: SpaceX)

Ever since it retired the space shuttle in 2011, NASA has relied on Russian spaceships launched from Kazakhstan to take US astronauts to and from the space station.

Falcon-9 during one of its test launches

Falcon-9 during one of its test launches

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Source: SpaceX