SpaceX has been approved to conduct the first orbital launch of the Crew Dragon capsule next month.
The test flight could take place as early as March 2, with it being the final hurdle between SpaceX being able to send astronauts to the International Space Station. NASA announced the approval of the test in a blog post on their website.
Ever since 2011 when the last Space Shuttle was retired by NASA, the only capsules taking astronauts to space are the Russian Soyuz capsules. Using the SpaceX rockets means that America will be able to send astronauts to space without relying on their Russian counterparts.
Now this test has been approved, it will have to prove that the rocket can make the trip to the ISS and back without any technical glitches. The flight will be the first time a commercially built and operated American rocket and spacecraft designed for humans will be launched to the space station.
Without any crew on board, the test will need to prove that SpaceX are able to successfully send astronauts to the ISS, dock, and then fly back to Earth with an ocean splash-down and successful recovery operation. The spacecraft will remain at the ISS for six days before landing in the Atlantic Ocean, if all goes to plan.
If the flight proves to be successful, we could see a mission with astronauts in the Crew Dragon capsule taking place as early as the summer. As well as proving that the mission is safe, the launch called Demo-1 will help to iron out any potential problems before the real thing. You could call it a dress rehearsal.
The Falcon 9 rocket launch to the ISS is scheduled to take place Saturday March 2 at 2:48 a.m. EST (7:48am GMT) from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. This will be dependent on weather forecasts as the launch could be pushed back if deemed unsafe.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with American companies SpaceX and Boeing to provide crew transportation to and from the International Space Station for the foreseeable future.
They hope doing this will enable them to spend more time on additional research. Boeing are scheduled to complete a test flight of their CST-100 Starliner in April.
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Matt Weston is a lover of electric cars, artificial intelligence and space. From Cornwall, he’s a UCLan graduate that still dreams of being a Formula One driver in the very near future. Previously work includes reporting for regional newspapers and freelance video for the International Business Times.