Crew Dragon makes its (uncrewed) maiden flight

SpaceX Crew Dragon launch
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, sending its first Crew Dragon spaceship skyward with a spacesuit-wearing mannequin seated inside. (SpaceX Photo)

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon was sent into space atop a Falcon 9 rocket tonight, beginning a crucial test of a spaceship that’s destined to carry NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

Liftoff took place right on time at 2:49 a.m. ET March 2 (11:49 p.m. PT March 1) from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the origin point for the last shuttle mission as well as for trips to the moon in the Apollo era.

Within minutes, the Falcon 9’s second stage put the uncrewed capsule into orbit, while the first-stage booster made a successful at-sea landing on a drone ship stationed hundreds of miles offshore in the Atlantic Ocean.

The late-night event, watched by hundreds of onlookers near the Florida launch site and thousands of webcast witnesses, kicked off the first orbital flight of a privately built spaceship designed to carry humans.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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