WASHINGTON, March 2 (Xinhua) -- An American spacecraft designed to fly astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) from the United States was launched Saturday morning for its debut unmanned flight.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, carrying the Crew Dragon spacecraft, lifted off at 2:49 a.m. Eastern Time (0749 GMT) from Launch Complex 39A at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)'s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

About 11 minutes after blastoff, the Crew Dragon separated from the second stage of the rocket, and headed for an autonomous docking with the space station on Sunday.

The test flight is intended to show the transport capabilities of SpaceX, a private company and contractor of the U.S. space agency NASA for ISS flights. The move came eight years after NASA's space shuttle retired, leaving it dependent on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft to fly crews to the station.

NASA called the flight on its official Twitter account "a new chapter of U.S. human spaceflight systems."