Crew Dragon capsule flew into space at 2:49 AM ET and set itself into the Earth's orbit just 11 minutes after the launch at 3 AM ET. A test dummy fitted with several instruments occupied one of the four seats.
At the same time, the Crew Dragon spaceship continued its ascent towards low-Earth orbit and the ISS. That the docking process went without error will not be exclusively a sigh of aid for NASA's Business Crew Program-the venture to switch the retired Area Shuttle that's years delayed-however good news for the three astronauts at present residing on the station. Boeing has similar uncrewed and crewed test flights planned for April and August, respectively, for their own certification tests. On March 8 it will separate again and splash down in the Atlantic Ocean. Russian Soyuz seats go for up to $82 million apiece.
Founded by billionaire Elon Musk, SpaceX has made the trip to the ISS a dozen times since 2012, but only to bring cargo to the station.
A picture tweeted by Musk on Saturday showed that Ripley was accompanied by a small plush Earth toy.
A new experimental type of deep space communications technology is scheduled to be demonstrated on the International Space Station this spring.
Like Ripley, the capsule is rigged with sensors to measure noise, vibration and stresses, and to monitor the life-support, propulsion and other critical systems throughout the flight.
Reuters reported on February 21 that SpaceX and Boeing both must address significant design and safety concerns before they can fly humans. "What today really represents is a new era in spaceflight".
From blast-off at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday to contact Sunday, the flight took 27 hours. The capsule's nose cap was wide open like a dragon's mouth, to expose the docking mechanism.
"We're going to learn a ton from this mission", said NASA's commercial crew program manager, Kathy Lueders.
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 launch systems are aimed at ending US reliance on Russian rockets for rides to the $100 billion orbital research laboratory, which flies about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth, at about $80 million per ticket.