SpaceX and Nasa successfully launch US crew into orbit

The United States is back in the business of human spaceflight after a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon crew capsule carrying two Nasa astronauts blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The 3.22pm launch marked the rebirth of the nation’s crewed spaceflight program as the first mission by a private contractor carrying humans into orbit. It was also the first launch of astronauts from US soil since the retirement of Nasa’s space shuttle fleet in 2011.

Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, both veterans of shuttle missions, will join their Nasa colleague Chris Cassidy already aboard the International Space Station 250 miles above Earth after docking on Sunday.

There was a 50 percent chance Falcon 9 would not take off today due to ominous clouds and lightning risks, but the weather cleared with just 45 minutes left on the clock countdown.

The mission is also the first time a private company has put astronauts into space. This was the second attempt to launch after Wednesday’s flight was aborted when Storm Bert. 

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