NASA has officially set the date for the first test flight of SpaceX's new generation Crew Dragon capsule. Dubbed DM-1, the first demonstration mission of the Crew Dragon astronaut pod is scheduled to take place in less than two months and will lift off on January 7, NASA announced yesterday.
As the Inquisitr previously reported, the first test flight of the Crew Dragon will be an unmanned trip to the International Space Station (ISS). The space capsule will remain docked with the orbital outpost for a few weeks, after which the Crew Dragon will make the flight back to Earth.
According to Space News, the astronaut pod will take to space atop a Falcon 9 rocket launching from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A. This is the same launch pad from which NASA's Apollo and space shuttle missions soared to the skies decades ago. SpaceX leased LC-39A in 2014 for a period of 20 years and renovated the facility to support launches of its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, reports NASA Spaceflight.
If the first test flight of the Crew Dragon is successful, SpaceX will prepare for an in-flight abort test to make sure that the astronaut pod can safely transport people into space. Once this milestone is achieved, the private space company will be ready for its first manned orbital mission, slated for June.
During this first crewed launch, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will ride the Dragon to the ISS — thereby becoming the first American astronauts to launch into space from U.S. soil since the Space Shuttle Program was retired in 2011, the Inquisitr recently reported.What About Boeing?
Meanwhile, NASA's other partner in the Commercial Crew Program — the aerospace company Boeing — is scheduled to launch its first uncrewed mission of the CST-100 Starliner next spring. Known as the Orbital Flight Test (OFT), the mission will fly to the ISS in March to test the vehicle's systems before the astronaut-ferrying pod is ready to carry people into space.
The Starliner's first Crewed Flight Test (CFT) will take place toward the end of summer and is currently scheduled for August. The first astronauts to fly the CST-100 Starliner to the ISS are NASA's Eric Boe and Nicole Aunapu Mann, along with Chris Ferguson — a Boeing test pilot and former U.S. astronaut. The mission will take off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, riding into space atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.
However, Boeing still needs to complete a pad abort test of the CST-100 Starliner before the company can put people on its space capsule. This particular safety test — which SpaceX successfully performed in 2015 — will take place between the OFT and the CFT and is designed to provide the astronauts with "an escape system that can quickly and safely take crew members away from their rocket while on the pad and through their ascent to orbit," explained NASA."After the uncrewed flight tests, both companies will carry out spacecraft abort tests to demonstrate their crew escape capability during an actual on-pad, or ascent emergency," space agency officials said in a November 21 statement.
"NASA's Commercial Crew Program will return human spaceflight launches to U.S. soil, providing safe, reliable and cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit on systems that meet our safety and mission requirements."