CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) – The American-built Dragon capsule, developed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company under contract to NASA, docked smoothly with the International Space Station on Sunday, bringing the U.S. a big step closer to getting back in the business of launching astronauts. With just a test dummy aboard, Dragon’s arrival marks the first time in eight years that an American-made spacecraft capable of carrying humans has flown to the space station.
If this six-day test flight goes well, a Dragon capsule could take two NASA astronauts to the orbiting outpost this summer.
“A new generation of space flight starts now with the arrival of @SpaceX’s Crew Dragon to the @Space_Station,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted. “Congratulations to all for this historic achievement getting us closer to flying American Astronauts on American rockets.”
Ever since NASA retired the space shuttle in 2011, the U.S. has been hitching rides to and from the space station aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft. In the meantime, NASA is paying two companies — SpaceX and Boeing — to build and operate America’s next generation of rocket ships.
SpaceX’s 27-foot-long (8-meter-long) capsule rocketed into orbit early Saturday from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center with a mannequin strapped into one of its four seats in a dashing, white-and-black, form-fitting SpaceX spacesuit. The test dummy was nicknamed Ripley after the main character in the “Alien” movies.