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Nasa astronauts arrive at space station after 19-hour journey

A SpaceX Falcon 9, with NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken in the Dragon crew capsule, lifts off from Pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Picture by John Raoux, Associated Press
Nilima Marshall, PA Science Reporter

Nasa astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken have reached the International Space Station (ISS), nearly 19 hours after lift-off.

The pair began their journey on SpaceX's the Crew Dragon capsule on top of the Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida on Saturday evening.

Although the space station orbits at around 220 miles above the planet, it took almost a day for the Dragon to rendezvous with the moving laboratory.

READ MORE: SpaceX makes history by becoming first private company to send humans into orbit

The spacecraft had to perform a series of manoeuvres to raise its obit to come close enough to dock at the space station.

The Dragon docked autonomously to a port on the bow section of the of the station's Harmony module.

Once the Dragon is sealed in place and pressure checks are completed, the hatch door will open and Mr Hurley and Mr Behnken will join the three other space station residents, Nasa's Chris Cassidy and Russia's Anatoli Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, to become members of the Expedition 63 crew.

The mission, named Demo-2, marks the first time Nasa has launched astronauts from US soil in nine years.

SpaceX also made history by becoming the first private company to send humans into orbit.

 A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft is seen in this false colour infrared exposure as it is launched on NASA's SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station. Picture by Bill Ingalls, Nasa via Associated Press

The aim of the mission is to demonstrate SpaceX's ability to ferry astronauts to the space station and back safely.

It is the final major step required by SpaceX's astronaut carrier, the Crew Dragon, to get certified by Nasa's Commercial Crew Programme for long-term manned missions to space.

The mission is expected to last anything between one and four months, with a number of tests being performed on the Dragon.

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