NASA and SpaceX are marking another milestone with the launch of a new passenger capsule, the Crew Dragon on March 2nd from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Both NASA and SpaceX agreed to move forward with the flight after doing a full day of reviews, determining that the vehicle was ready to see space.
If the capsule successfully makes it orbit, SpaceX will be one vital step closer to putting the first humans on board its spacecraft.
The mission, Demonstration Mission-1 or DM-1, is a landmark for NASA’s Commercial Crew program, it is initiative of NASA to send astronauts to the International Space Station aboard private vehicles. Since the Shuttle program of NASA ended, now NASA has relied on Russia to ferry its astronauts to and from low earth orbit, expansive arrangements that limited the types of missions NASA could run.
For this mission, both SpaceX and another Boeing, have been developing new capsules to transport NASA astronauts to from low Earth orbit. NASA wants the two companies to send these vehicles to space first, empty, before putting people on board. Boeing’s vehicle, the CST-100 Starliner, is set to fly uncrewed for the first time this April. But SpaceX’s Crew Dragon has been at Cape Canaveral since December, ready to fly. SpaceX even tested out the engines on the Falcon 9 rocket it plans to use to carry the capsule to orbit. SpaceX just needs approval from NASA.
The capsule is set to fly at 2:48 AM ET from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The flight is a short one compared to the months-long missions that a crewed spacecraft might be expected to complete. But it will hopefully provide both NASA and SpaceX with critical data about how the Crew Dragon holds up in space — and whether or not it is ready to carry passengers. “This vehicle, inside, has a lot of instrumentation,” Kathy Lueders, said during a press conference at Kennedy Space Center today. “We’re getting a lot of imagery of the vehicle as it’s coming back.” The capsule will be weighted similarly to how a Crew Dragon will be when it has astronauts on board, and it will also be carrying a test dummy, suited up in one of SpaceX’s custom flight suits.
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