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WATCH: SpaceX and NASA successfully launch historic flight with U.S. astronauts

For the first time in nearly a decade, the United States has successfully launched astronauts into Earth’s orbit from American soil.

At 3:22 p.m. ET on May 30, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule took off from the Kennedy Space Center carrying two NASA crew members to the International Space Station. SpaceX is now the first private company ever to send human beings into space.

Around 10 minutes after takeoff, the Falcon 9 separated from Crew Dragon and landed on a drone ship located in the Atlantic Ocean called “Of Course I Still Love You.” Crew Dragon is expected to reach the ISS around 10:30 a.m. ET on May 31.

Saturday’s launch marked the first crewed mission to depart from the U.S. since the Atlantis shuttle took off in July 2011. NASA has since sent astronauts into orbit from Kazakhstan using Russian Soyuz capsules, while the agency’s sites in Florida have focused on launching crewless missions for cargo and other purposes.

In March, SpaceX teams at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and Hawthorne, California, along with NASA flight controllers in Mission Control Houston, executed a full simulation of launch and docking of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley in SpaceX’s flight simulator. Photo by SpaceX

NASA pilots Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are the sole passengers of the spacecraft, which is capable of seating up to seven people. The Russian shuttles NASA has used over the past several years, in contrast, can carry just three.

The launch is part of the Commercial Crew Program, a collaboration between the agency and private industry that, NASA says, aims to develop “a new generation of spacecraft and launch systems capable of carrying crews to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station.”

Saturday’s launch was originally scheduled for Wednesday, May 27, but it was scrubbed less than 20 minutes before takeoff due to inclement weather.

Illustration of the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 rocket during the company’s uncrewed In-Flight Abort Test for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Photo by SpaceX

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