The Crew Dragon capsule was launched on top of one of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets, and contains 400lb of cargo, as well as a sophisticated crash dummy named Ripley, a reference to Sigourney Weaver's character in the Alien franchise.
A veteran of two spaceflights, Garrett Reisman left NASA in 2011 to play a senior role in the development of the Crew Dragon spacecraft at SpaceX until past year.
Carrying a mannequin and 400 pounds of supplies, the company's Dragon spacecraft was hurled into orbit on its way to the International Space Station in a crucial flight for both NASA and SpaceX, the California company founded in 2002 by Elon Musk.
Two NASA astronauts, Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken, were watching 3.2 miles from the launch pad in the SpaceX launch control room.
NASA has awarded SpaceX and Boeing Co $6.8 billion to build competing rocket and capsule systems to launch astronauts into orbit from American soil for the first time since the US Space Shuttle was retired from service in 2011.
"There is nothing more important for us than this endeavour, and we really appreciate the opportunity from Nasa to do this". It's big news because this is the first time a commercial interest has launched a spacecraft that was built to carry humans.
Although SpaceX has been flying a cargo-based version of the Dragon to the station since 2012, the new Dragon has been entirely remade for crew.
"I'm a little emotionally exhausted, because that was super stressful but it worked, so far", Musk told a late-night press conference an hour later.
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"It's been a long eight years", the Kennedy Space Center's director Bob Cabana, a former astronaut himself, said as SpaceX employees milled around the rocket.
Ripley's not just along for the ride: The anthropomorphic test device, as NASA calls it, is there to make sure the Crew Dragon is safe and comfortable for humans.
"Today represents a new era in space flight" said Jim Bridenstine, head of the USA space agency who sees the launch as a step toward the privatization of low Earth orbit.
Believe it or not, the US Saturday launched a spaceship that can carry astronauts to outer space. Russian Soyuz seats go for up to $82 million apiece.
No one was on board the capsule launched on Saturday on its first test flight, only an instrumented dummy. If you enjoy our coverage and are able, please consider supporting us on Patreon to help in our efforts to to bring you fantastic content about the space industry!
"We're going to learn a ton from this mission, " said NASA's commercial crew program manager, Kathy Lueders.
Crew Dragon will remain docked to the station until early March 8.
On this occasion, we will see the crew version of Dragon approach the station at the bow and dock automatically, using a new design of connection ring.