America’s newest capsule for astronauts is rocketing towards the International Space Station on a test flight by SpaceX.
A Falcon rocket blasted off with the Crew Dragon capsule from Nasa’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.
The only passenger is a life-size test dummy, named Ripley from the Alien movies.
It will spend five days docked to the orbiting outpost, before making a splashdown in the Atlantic next Friday — all vital training for the next space demo, possibly this summer, when two astronauts strap in.
“This is critically important … We’re on the precipice of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil again for the first time since the retirement of the space shuttles in 2011,” said Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine.
He got a special tour of the pad on the eve of launch, by SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk.
The launch will provide vital data to SpaceX and Nasa that will determine whether the spacecraft is ready to carry passengers.
The American space agency ended its own Space Shuttle in 2011, opting for a new Commercial Crew Programme working with Elon Musk's SpaceX and Boeing.
Since then, it has relied on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft to blast astronauts into space, which costs $81 million a seat (£61 million).
An estimated 5,000 Nasa and contractor employees, tourists and journalists gathered in the wee hours at Kennedy Space Centre with the SpaceX launch team, as the Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from the same spot where Apollo moon rockets and space shuttles once soared.
Across the country at SpaceX Mission Control in Hawthorne, California, company employees went wild, cheering every step of the way until the capsule successfully reached orbit.
It has been eight years since Hurley and three other astronauts flew the last space shuttle mission, and human launches from Florida ceased.
SpaceX already has made 16 trips to the space station using cargo Dragons. The white crew Dragon is slightly bigger — 27 feet tip to tip — and considerably safer.
It features four seats, three windows, touch-screen computer displays and life-support equipment, as well as eight abort engines to pull the capsule to safety in the event of a launch emergency.