In a historic first for the U.S. space program, a spacecraft designed, built, owned and operated by a private company — SpaceX — blasted off Saturday with two NASA astronauts aboard — the first purely private sector launch to orbit in space history. It was also the first launch of a crew from U.S. soil since the space shuttle program ended nearly nine years ago. Cheered on by a nation in the grip of a devastating pandemic, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, carrying the company’s first piloted Crew Dragon ferry ship, vaulted away from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center at 3:22:45 p.m. EDT to kick off a long-awaited test flight to the International Space Station. Liftoff came three days after stormy weather forced SpaceX to call off the first launch attempt Wednesday. Saturday’s launching was in doubt until late in the countdown, due to the same weather system along Florida’s Space Coast and rough conditions along the spacecraft’s downrange trajectory. But as the afternoon wore on, conditions improved enough for cautious mission managers to give a “go” to proceed. Strapped into the capsule’s two center seats were commander Douglas Hurley, pilot of the final shuttle mission in 2011,… Read full this story
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