NASA and SpaceX officials announced on Friday that their test flight of the Crew Dragon Capsule to the International Space Station (ISS) is a go. The test flight, dubbed Demo-1, is a step toward commercially built transportation of humans into space for the first time ever.
Demo-1 will be an uncrewed mission. After a flight readiness review (FRR), it was determined that it was safer for the three people living on the ISS. But the capsule won’t be showing up empty. It will be “crewed” by a dummy covered in sensors and wearing a space suit.
SpaceX has been sending cargo missions to the ISS since 2012. The Crew Dragon is different from the cargo crafts in a few ways. Obviously, it has life-support. It has seven seats and a touch screen console for astronauts to manipulate. Crew Dragon will dock directly to the ISS, whereas the cargo variation was grabbed by the station’s giant robotic arm. And, most dramatic of all, the crew capsule “features eight SuperDraco escape engines, which would fly the vehicle out of harm’s way during a launch emergency.” That’s according to space.com.
If Demo-1 goes well, NASA and SpaceX will move on to an uncrewed “high-altitude abort test” which will put the SuperDraco engines to the test. That test flight is set for June. And, if that goes well… next comes Demo-2. Demo-2 would carry two NASA astronauts to and from the ISS. That mission is planned for sometime in July.
If everything is successful, SpaceX would enable American astronauts to leave for space from our home soil. That hasn’t been possible since 2011 when NASA retired its space shuttle fleet. Russia has been launching our astronauts to the ISS for us since then.
The Crew Dragon capsule is scheduled to launch atop a Falcon 9 rocket from the Pad 39A of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on March 2 at 2:48 a.m. EST (11:48pm on March 1 , PT). You can watch it live on NASA TV!!