SpaceX successfully launched its first Crew Dragon capsule to the International Space Station (ISS) on March 2 and now the mission is underway.
This flight, known as Demo-1, is uncrewed. But if all goes well, Crew Dragon will likely carry astronauts to and from the orbiting lab for the first time this summer.
SpaceX has been developing Crew Dragon under a multibillion-dollar commercial crew contract with NASA. The agency signed a similar deal with Boeing, which is working on a capsule called the CST-100 Starliner.
The goal is to return orbital human spaceflight to U.S. soil. American astronauts have been dependent on Russian Soyuz rockets and spacecraft to get to and from the ISS since July 2011, when NASA retired its space shuttle fleet.
A lot of money has flowed from NASA to its Russian counterpart, Roscosmos, as a result; seats aboard the three-person Soyuz spacecraft currently sell for around $80 million apiece.
Crew Dragon will launch atop SpaceX's workhorse Falcon 9 rocket, a two-stage vehicle that features a reusable first stage. Starliner, which is scheduled to make its uncrewed maiden flight to the ISS sometime in April, will be lofted by United Launch Alliance Atlas V rockets, which are not reusable.