This morning at about 9 a.m. Eastern Time, SpaceX launched the crew version of its Dragon space capsule for the first time.

The capsule launched from a pad at Cape Canaveral using its onboard Super Drago rocket engines. The flight only lasted a minute and half, during which the engines fired for 6 seconds and the capsule coasted to 5,000 feet before splashing down under parachutes a mile off the Florida coast.

The purpose of the flight was to test the capsule’s so-called pad abort capability, designed to save the crew if their rocket explodes or goes off course or otherwise misbehaves.

Said SpaceX VP of Mission Assurance Hans Koenigsmann at a pre-flight press conference on Friday:

“On previous rockets, there are times when you can’t get out, and on this particular vehicle, you can always get out. Whatever happens to Falcon 9, you will be able to pull out the astronauts and land them safely on this crew Dragon.”

The company has been sending cargo versions to the International Space Station since 2012, and it’s developing a crew version under contract with NASA. Boeing is also working on a crew capsule for NASA, but it hasn’t flown yet.

Read my full report on popularmechanics.com: http://www.popularmechanics.com/space/a15395/spacex-successfully-tests-the-crew-dragon-spaceship/

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