Washington: In what is being called a "revolutionary step" to get humans to the Moon, Mars and beyond, Elon Musk-owned SpaceX's on Saturday successfully launched its unmanned Crew Dragon test flight to the International Space Station (ISS), NASA said.
Demo-1 is the first test mission of a commercially built and operated American spacecraft and rocket designed for humans.
The test flight was launched successfully at 2.49 a.m. EST on the company's Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The Crew Dragon is safely in orbit en route to its docking at the ISS on Sunday at about 6 a.m., the NASA statement added.
"Today's successful launch marks a new chapter in American excellence, getting us closer to once again flying American Astronauts on American rockets from American soil," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine wrote in a tweet.
"The first launch of a space system designed for humans, built and operated by a commercial company through a public-private partnership is a revolutionary step on our path to get humans to the Moon, Mars and beyond," he added.
In addition to 400 pounds of supplies and equipment, Crew Dragon is carrying Ripley, an anthropomorphic test device outfitted with sensors to gather important data about what an astronaut flying onboard the spacecraft would experience throughout the mission.
The unmanned Demo-1 flight test will demonstrate the company's ability to safely launch crew to the ISS and return home.
"Demo-1 is a demonstration of the Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon spacecraft, ground systems and overall operations -- basically just about everything that needs to be operating...
"...And operating well before we want to put our astronauts on-board," said Mike Lee, NASA mission manager for SpaceX's Demo-1 flight test.
NASA and SpaceX will use the Demo-1 data to further prepare for Demo-2, the manned flight mission that will carry NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the ISS. It is currently targeted for July.