SpaceX just launched its historic mission to fly NASA astronauts to space

SpaceX just launched a historic mission for NASA: its first astronaut flight, and the first launch of humans from US soil in nearly a decade.

falcon 9 launch spacex
  • The rocket lifted off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 3:22 p.m. ET on Saturday, carrying astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.
  • The launch is not a success until it reaches orbit, though, which is about 12 minutes after liftoff.
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Amid rain and the threat of lightning on Saturday, one of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets heaved itself off the ground at 3:22 p.m. ET with a thunderous roar of flames, smoke, and dust.

Atop the rocket, the SpaceX-designed spaceship Crew Dragon soared above NASA's historic launchpad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The launch is not a success yet. This is a dangerous phase of the mission, and it won't be done until the spacecraft reaches orbit, roughly nine minutes after liftoff, if all goes well.

Business Insider will update this story as the mission progresses.

The liftoff kicks off a high-stakes demonstration flight, called Demo-2, that is flying people in a commercial spacecraft for the first time ever. If successful, the mission will resurrect the US's capability to launch its own astronauts and kick off a new era of commercial space exploration .

"This is a dream come true for me and everyone else at SpaceX," Elon Musk, who founded SpaceX in 2002, said shortly before the mission's first launch attempt on Wednesday on NASA TV. "I didn't even dream that this would come true."

Earlier on Saturday morning, poor weather threatened to delay the mission, as clouds crowded the Florida skies and teased rocket-threatening lightning.

The same conditions forced NASA and SpaceX to scrub their first launch attempt just 17 before liftoff on Wednesday, since the Falcon 9 rocket could trigger lightning strikes from electrically charged clouds.

Even as Behnken and Hurley climbed into the Crew Dragon for a second attempt on Saturday, the odds were not in their favor. That morning, forecasts showed a 50-50 chance of weather unsafe for launch. In the afternoon, the clouds cleared just enough to make way for the rocket.

Musk was conspicuously absent from the pre-launch procedures at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, though he had made appearances on NASA's live feed several times during the first launch attempt on Wednesday.

This is a developing story. We will update with new information.

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