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If all goes to plan, this will be a huge milestone in the journey towards commercial space travel. It docked autonomously, instead of relying on the station's robot arm for help.

The Crew Dragon capsule successfully launched from Nasa's Kennedy Space Centre in Florida on Saturday.

SpaceX's first crewed mission, which will fly NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, could happen by July, according to NASA's most recent schedule.

SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk said the launch was "super stressful" to watch, but he's hopeful the capsule will be ready to carry people later this year.

The dummy in the capsule - which SpaceX's Hans Koenigsmann prefers to call a "smartie" - is fitted with monitors to test the forces to which future astronauts will be subjected on take-off and when they return to the Earth's atmosphere and then splash down in the Atlantic, slowed down by giant parachutes.

Saturday's flight is a dress rehearsal for the first manned spaceflight from United States soil since the Space Shuttle was grounded in 2011. America's newest capsule for astronauts rocketed toward the International Space Station on a high-stakes test flight by SpaceX. Ripley is no mere dummy, but "an anthropomorphic test device outfitted with sensors to gather important data about what an astronaut flying aboard the spacecraft would experience throughout the mission", NASA says. "We've got NASA "rocking" again," Trump tweeted.

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The nosecone of Dragon opened to reveal the docking port and forward-facing Draco thrusters, and the first of a series of burns to gradually match the ISS's orbit was completed.

It's a test flight without crew aboard, created to demonstrate the potential for carrying astronauts into orbit on a commercial spacecraft.

It's expected to touch down in the Atlantic Ocean, somewhere off the coast of Florida near Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center.

It features four seats, three windows, touch-screen computer displays and life-support equipment, as well as eight abort engines to pull the capsule to safety in the event of a launch emergency.

International Space Station approach zones Two zones dictate how vehicles approach the International Space Station: the approach ellipsoid, which is 4-by-2 kilometers wide, and a smaller keep out sphere, which is 200 meters wide. The US space agency has been paying Russian Federation roughly $81 million for a single seat on the Soyuz spaceship every time it needs to ferry an astronaut to or from the ISS.

NASA's Commercial Crew Program is working with Boeing and SpaceX to design, build, test and operate safe, reliable and cost-effective human transportation systems to low-Earth orbit. Astronauts have been stuck riding Russian rockets ever since NASA's space shuttle program ended in 2011.


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