SpaceX Crew Dragon with two NASA astronauts docks with International Space Station

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – Just under 19 hours after launching from Florida, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule carrying NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley docked with the International Space Station on Sunday, marking the first U.S. space capsule to do so with a crew since 2011.

The launch on Saturday by SpaceX, the private rocket company of billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, represented another milestone for the reusable rockets it pioneered to make spaceflight less costly and more frequent.

It also marked the first time that commercially developed space vehicles – owned and operated by a private entity rather than NASA – have carried Americans into orbit.

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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center at 3:22 p.m. EDT (1922 GMT) for the journey to the International Space Station. Just before liftoff, Hurley said, “SpaceX, we’re go for launch. Let’s light this candle,” paraphrasing the famous comment uttered on the launch pad in 1961 by Alan Shepard, the first American flown into space.

Reporting by Joey Roulette; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Chizu Nomiyama

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