SpaceX, the private rocket company of billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, launched two Americans toward orbit from Florida on Saturday in a mission that marks the first spaceflight of NASA astronauts from U.S. soil in nine years, APA reports quoting Reuters.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center at 3:22 p.m. EDT (1922 GMT), launching Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on a 19-hour ride aboard the company’s newly designed Crew Dragon capsule bound for the International Space Station.
Crew Dragon separated from its second stage booster at 3:35 and has entered orbit.
The craft launched from the same pad used by NASA’s final space shuttle flight, piloted by Hurley, in 2011. Since then, NASA astronauts have had to hitch rides into orbit aboard Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft.
“It’s incredible, the power, the technology,” said U.S. President Donald Trump, who was at Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral in Florida for the launch, “That was a beautiful sight to see.”
The mission’s first launch try on Wednesday was called off with less than 17 minutes remaining on the countdown clock. Weather again threatened Saturday’s launch, but cleared in time to begin the mission.
NASA chief Jim Bridenstine has said resuming launches of American astronauts on American-made rockets from U.S. soil is the space agency’s top priority.