SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule set for historic test flight

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule set for historic test flight

Once the Dragon capsule is launched into space and heading for the space station, updates from NASA and SpaceX's social feeds will keep us looped in on how the rest of the mission goes.

The flight, if successful, will be the first time a spaceship capable of carrying people that is commercially built and operated will travel to the International Space Station.

The Boeing and SpaceX launch systems are aimed at ending USA reliance on Russian rockets for rides to the $100 billion orbital research laboratory, which flies about 250 miles (402 km) above Earth, at about $80 million per ticket.

I guarantee everything will not work exactly right and that's cool. But the Dragon capsule won't be carrying humans onboard, just the next best thing: a test dummy that's named after and looks identical to Eileen Ripley from the Alien films.

With an instrumented astronaut test dummy nicknamed "Ripley" strapped into one of the Crew Dragon's four seats, liftoff from historic pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center is targeted for 2:49 a.m. EST (GMT-5) Saturday.

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If all goes as planned, on Sunday, the module will autonomously dock with the International Space Station for the first time.

"On a personal level, this is an extremely important mission", SpaceX executive Hans Koenigsmann told reporters Thursday.

NASA plans to livestream the SpaceX Crew Dragon launch as it happens through its NASA TV website; the live video can be accessed here and the network's broadcast schedule can be viewed here. The program involves NASA working with two partners, SpaceX and Boeing, to build revolutionary spacecraft to bring astronauts to the space station and low orbits around Earth. The Roadster launched on top of the first successfully launched Falcon Heavy rocket last February. Liftoff is set for 2:49 a.m. EST (0749 GMT) from Pad 39A - the exact same site used by NASA's Apollo moon shots and where, almost eight years ago, the agency launched its final space shuttle mission. The three space station astronauts will enter the Dragon, unload the fresh supplies on board and then fill it with science samples and old equipment. It's expected to undock and return to Earth later in the week, on Friday, March 8.

Boeing, meanwhile, is building a spacecraft called the CST-100 Starliner, which launches on Atlas V rockets and aims to make its debut uncrewed test in April. The uncrewed flight is an important step in returning human launches on American rockets and spacecraft to the space station from US soil since 2011.

"The uncrewed flight tests are a great dry run for not only our hardware, but for our team to get ready for our crewed flight tests", Kathy Lueders, manager of the commercial crew program, said in a news release.

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