SpaceX rocket with unmanned USA capsule blasts off for space station

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The demonstration mission of SpaceX's new Crew Dragon capsule successfully docked Sunday on the International Space Station, passing a key test before it can begin taking U.S. astronauts into space.

NASA has awarded SpaceX and Boeing Co $6.8 billion to build competing rocket and capsule systems to launch astronauts into orbit from American soil for the first time since the U.S. Space Shuttle was retired from service in 2011.

Roscosmos Executive Director for Manned Programs Sergei Krikalyov earlier told TASS that the Crew Dragon should undergo tests and comply with safety and reliability requirements before Russian cosmonauts can travel aboard it.

Crew Dragon Capsule successfully docked to ISS. More testing with our Space Launch System rocket engine ... "It's done. Now we're in a position where we can take our time and make sure we get it right". We went to the moon and we won.

If the Crew Dragon lands back safely in the Atlantic Ocean, NASA will evaluate how the mission went and decide if the next test flight is safe enough to put two astronauts on board.

In 2014, the USA space agency awarded contracts to SpaceX and Boeing to take over the task of ferrying astronauts to the space station.

The Crew Dragon craft took off Saturday morning from the Launch Complex 39-A.

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For the test, the Ripley dummy was strapped into the far left seat, wearing the company's snappy white spacesuit. A sensor-laden mannequin named Ripley and floating Earth plush toy in the cockpit measured the noises and stresses.

"Welcome to the new era in spaceflight", McClain said from inside Dragon. The version designed for humans is slightly bigger and safer.

SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk: "SpaceX would not be here without NASA - without the incredible work that was done before SpaceX even started, and without the support after SpaceX did start".

SpaceX aims to launch Behnken and Hurley as early as July. The more immediate goal is to avoid harming the space station and its three occupants: an American, Canadian and Russian.

At Saturday's post-launch news conference, Musk said he'd be happy to fly on the revamped Dragon.

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.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule launch from NASA pad 39A as seen in a time exposure from Viera, FL. on March.

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