The first commercially-built spacecraft that NASA will use to taxi supplies to the International Space Station launched on Tuesday.
NASA said the launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft is the second demonstration mission for the space agency’s commercial orbital transportation services program.
Administrator Charles Bolden said in a release the launch marks a new era in exploration as the spacecraft prepares to dock at the Space Station for the first time.
The Dragon capsule is set to perform a series of checkout procedures to test its systems, including a flyby of the space station 1.5 miles away.
SpaceX and NASA managers will analyze the capsule’s ability to use sensors and flight systems near the station, after which it will be granted clearance to dock with the station on Friday.
NASA reports the Expedition 31 crew will orbit the robotic arm to capture and install Dragon on the bottom side of the Harmony node.
SpaceX and Orbital Sciences will continue to conduct flight tests and begin delivering cargo shipments to the station regularly if tests are successful.
The space agency said it is also working to develop the Lockheed Martin-built Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System to provide exploration abilities beyond low Earth orbit.