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US President Donald Trump has congratulated the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and private US aerospace manufacturer SpaceX on the successful launch of Dragon 2 spacecraft for its first unmanned test mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Also, the Crew Dragon's approach procedure included a test to demonstrate that the crew could issue commands to have the capsule back away from a standoff distance of about 140 meters (460 feet). After opening its nose cone for navigational purposes, Dragon is now spending about 24 hours performing a series of phasing maneuvers to bring it toward the International Space Station, where it will dock at around 6am ET Sunday. Previous Dragon vehicles have been grabbed and hauled to the docking port by the station's robotic arm.

Although SpaceX has been flying a cargo-based version of the Dragon to the station since 2012, the new Dragon has been entirely remade for crew. The next one coming up will have its own two-man crew. "It's different", said Mark Geyer, director of the Johnson Space Center, where United States astronauts are based.

Why it matters: For almost a decade, NASA has been reliant on Russian rockets to put their astronauts into orbit.

As the capsule closed in on the space station, its nose cap was wide open like a dragon's mouth to expose the docking mechanism. The astronauts wore oxygen masks and hoods until getting the all-clear. The celebration was a milestone for Musk, who launched the company in 2002 with the goal of taking humans into space and one day colonizing Mars.

It's been eight years since Hurley and three other astronauts flew the last space shuttle mission, and human launches from Florida ceased.

"Just super excited to see it", Behnken said minutes after the linkup.

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The department said in a news release that they are satisfied that the requirements set out by the Extradition Act have been met. Extradition cases can stretch on for years, winding in and out of court with many avenues for appeal.

The Dragon will approach the 400km-high station from the front and use its computers and sensors to guide itself in. In a docking with a crew aboard, the capsule would likewise operate autonomously, though the astronauts might push a button or two and would be able to intervene if necessary. The capsule will deliver its payload of supplies and remain in place until March 8.

That triggered cheers at the firm's headquarters and at the Kennedy Space Center.

The Boeing and SpaceX launch systems are aimed at ending U.S. reliance on Russian rockets for rides to the $100 billion orbital research laboratory, which flies about 250 miles (402 km) above Earth, at about $80 million per ticket. The Starliner is now due to make its first uncrewed test flight no earlier than April, and its first crewed flight no earlier than August.

Since then, NASA and partner astronauts from the European Space Agency, Canada and Japan have been forced to hitch rides to the station aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft at a current cost of more than $80 million a seat.

After the shuttle program was shut down in July 2011 following a 30-year run, NASA began outsourcing the logistics of its space missions.


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