SpaceX rocket with unmanned US capsule blasts off for space station

Expedition 58 crew members Anne McClain David Saint Jacques and Oleg Konenenko welcome the SpaceX Crew Dragon to the International Space Station after a successful docking

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The main goal of this launch is to demonstrate that SpaceX has developed a way to safely transport humans to the International Space Station, which would eventuate in Crew Dragon capsule carrying up to four NASA astronaut passengers.

Nasa experts announced "hard capture complete" in a live webcast of the docking, with applause and cheers audible from the control room.

SpaceX must be fairly happy with how Crew Dragon and the Falcon 9 rocket carried out these previous few days.

At the same time, the astronauts now on board the ISS kept a close watch to make sure the Crew Dragon performed as expected - U.S astronaut Anne McClain and Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jaques were the ones in charge of commanding the Crew Dragon to hold, retreat to abort the mission altogether, if anything went wrong. On March 3rd, the Dragon autonomously docked with the ISS, not requiring the aid of the station's robotic arm. The SpaceX Crew Dragon's trip to the International Space Station is created to validate end-to-end systems and capabilities, leading to certification to fly crew. At 10:51 UTC (05:51 EST), a full nine minutes ahead of schedule, the spacecraft successfully docked with the worldwide docking adaptor at the forward end of the Harmony module.

We are preparing to once more Launch American astronauts from American land on American rockets, said NASA chief Jim Bridenstine. Engineers will be carefully watching sound, vibration and other stresses on the spacecraft, while monitoring the life-support, communication and propulsion systems.

At the same time, the Crew Dragon spaceship continued its ascent towards low-Earth orbit and the ISS.

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NASA has relied on Russian Federation to ferry its astronauts to the space station since the end of the U.S. space shuttle program in 2011 after a 30-year run.

The switch from NASA owning spacecraft to paying private firms for a service was initiated under former president Barack Obama - but due to development delays, has come to fruition under US President Donald Trump.

The objective is to make the next demo flight, with Hurley and Behnken, as safe as possible.

The crew members ticked off additional items from their checklist, also installing window covers and checking valves before taking part in a welcoming ceremony for the visiting vehicle at 10:45am EST Sunday, which aired on NASA Television.

SpaceX already has made 16 trips to the space station using cargo Dragons.

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