SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo-1 groundbreaking launch

Gwen Vasquez
March 2, 2019

Elon Musk's SpaceX was due to launch an unmanned crew capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket early on Saturday bound for the International Space Station, a major step toward NASA's goal of reviving the US human spaceflight program this year.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on the launch pad ready for the launch of the Crew Dragon on Saturday morning.

On Wednesday night, program officials announced a successful initial safety check and confirmed the timing of the historic test flight.

"We instrumented the crap out of this vehicle; it's got data, sensors everywhere", NASA's Commercial Crew Program manager Kathy Lueders added. SpaceX is shooting for a July crew launch, but that could slip depending on the results of the upcoming demo and a launch abort test this spring.

The crew capsule is based on the ISS cargo freighter but incorporates life-support systems and more powerful thrusters to push the vessel to safety if something goes wrong with the rocket.

"I'm very comfortable with where we're headed with this flight. We always learn from tests".

The long-awaited "Demo 1" mission is the most critical milestone yet in NASA's $8 billion effort to replace the shuttle with commercially developed ferry ships meant to end the agency's sole reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to carry US and partner astronauts to and from the space station.

For the past eight years, USA astronauts have been hitching rides to the space station on Russian spacecraft.

Summer and fall came and went with neither spacecraft leaving the ground.

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The initial SpaceX mission to the ISS will be crewed by NASA astronauts Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins, according to the space agency.

Crew Dragon and Starliner were commissioned to replace the Space Shuttle, which was retired in 2011.

However, tomorrow's Crew Dragon capsule launch will not be carrying any astronauts on its debut flight.

The launch called Demo-1 is created to test avionics, docking, solar arrays, communications and environmental controls among other things. A dummy is coming along for the ride to the International Space Station.

"We'll measure the responses on the human body, obviously, and measure the environment".

Hans Koenigsmann, vice-president of SpaceX's build and flight reliability, said the company is happy to be playing a role in getting humans into space.

After launching, the capsule will orbit Earth for just over 24 hours before heading to the ISS where it is scheduled to dock at 6:05 a.m. on Sunday. Next week, the craft will de-orbit and splash down into the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast, where it will be promptly retrieved by SpaceX.

After five days at its docking port, the module will be released.

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