Elon Musk’s SpaceX has become the first private company to launch NASA astronauts into space as a Falcon rocket with two people aboard blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center at 3:22pm local time.
At 3:35pm the Crew Dragon capsule, carrying astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, separated from its second stage booster and entered the Earth’s orbit.
The journey to the International Space Station will take Hurley and Behnken 19 hours.
The launch was initially scheduled for Wednesday, but was called off with less than 17 minutes remaining due to stormy weather.
NASA has had to rely on Russian Soyuz rockets to deliver people to space since the shutdown of its Shuttle program in 2011. This was the first manned space launch from US territory in nine years.
The US space agency had given SpaceX and Boeing, which plans its first manned space flight next year, almost $8 billion to develop the new American-made rockets.
For Musk, the successful launch is a huge step forward in his dream project ‘Starship system’, which the entrepreneur hopes will someday see reusable rockets delivering people and cargo to Earth’s orbit as well as to the Moon and beyond.
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