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SpaceX successfully launches (and destroys) Falcon 9 rocket, capsule splashes down in Atlantic

Falcon Heavy Demo Mission. (Official SpaceX Photos/Flickr)

SpaceX’s historic Falcon 9 rocket launch lifted off Sunday, with its capsule successfully landing in the Atlantic after detaching from the deliberately destroyed rocket.

The “Flight Abort Test” was designed to prove to NASA the viability of a mechanism meant to save astronauts’ lives by triggering if there is a problem.

The rocket lifted off from KSC’s Launch Complex 39A at 10:30 a.m., shepherding the Crew Dragon capsule into the sky.

After about 90 seconds, the rocket’s main first-stage engine shut down as “SuperDraco” thrusters shot the astronaut transporter away from the Falcon 9 to safety.

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The parachutes were deployed and the capsule splashed down in the Atlantic a few minutes later, a little ahead of schedule.

The mission had been planned for Saturday but the company determined that winds and conditions around the landing site of a human-rated capsule that would splash down in the Atlantic Ocean were not good enough for the mission.

The launch was the next major step in SpaceX’s effort to launch humans from U.S. soil.

“Congratulations to the @NASA and @SpaceX team for a successful In-Flight Abort Test!” said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine in a Tweet. “This critical test puts us on the cusp of once again launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil. Spacecraft recovery operations are underway.”

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©2020 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.