Published: 06:00, 30 May 2020
| Updated: 23:18, 30 May 2020
SpaceX's Falcon 9 historic mission blasted off tonight and delighted sky-watchers were rewarded with a view of it from Kent nearly two hours later.
Two astronauts, Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, are in the new Crew Dragon spacecraft, heading to the International Space Station.
The launch was originally planned for Wednesday but was cancelled due to unsafe weather conditions.
However, with better conditions today, the rocket was launched from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida at 8.22pm UK time.
It means US company SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, has made history by becoming the first private firm to fund a manned-space flight.
The last crewed orbital flight by NASA was in 2011, when its space shuttle Atlantis was launched for the last time before being retired to make way for new space programmes.
Some 10 million people across the world watched on - among them public figures and MPs from Kent.
Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted earlier to say today's launch activities were moving forward, but added: “Weather challenges remain with a 50% chance of cancellation.”
With the scrubbed launch on Wednesday, rocket spotters in Kent would have had the opportunity to see the craft 15 to 20 minutes after its launch.
But due to the earlier lift off time scheduled today, the sky was not dark enough as sunset was only at 9pm.
Instead, rocket spotters were able to see it at 10.15pm on its first orbit. It was visible close to the horizon, in a south-westerly direction.
According to Twitter there were sightings from Margate to Sheppey to Erith, where Dan Johnson posted a video of it sailing overhead.
Deputy chairman for Kent Conservatives, Stephen Bates, said: "Amazing to think the #SpaceX launch from #Florida I watched from #NASA on Twitter a couple of hours ago has just passed over my garden in #Kent en route to the @Space_Station."
Another satisfied sky-gazer, James Roxburgh, wrote: "Great clear conditions tonight- we saw ISS and then Dragon after. Kent, UK Really exciting to see the launch online and then the real thing! #nasa #SpaceX #dragoncapsule"
Some weren't so lucky though.
Steven Dennis tweeted astronaut Tim Peake to vent his frustrations about not being able to see the rocket, while others reported spotting the International Space Station itself, but no Crew Dragon.
More by this authorSophie Bird
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