After months of intense preparations, SpaceX is nearing a major milestone — the first test flight of its Crew Dragon capsule, designed to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) and even further out into deep space.
According to Spaceflight Now, the private rocket company has finally moved the Crew Dragon pod to its designated launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, along with the Falcon 9 rocket that will carry it into space.
The Crew Dragon and its Falcon 9 carrier made their way onto the historic Launch Complex 39A bright and early this morning, emerging from the SpaceX hangar shortly after 7 a.m. EST. This is the first time that the two spacecraft are seen together on their launch pad — the same one that saw NASA’s space shuttles blast off to the ISS up until 2011 and the mighty Saturn V rocket ferry astronauts to the moon during the Apollo missions.
Both the Crew Dragon capsule and the Falcon 9 rocket will embark on a series of tests ahead of their trip to space, which is expected to take place sometime after mid-January.
Known as the Demo-1 mission, or DM-1, this first test flight of the Crew Dragon will carry the unmanned vehicle to the ISS — where it will stay docked for a few weeks before returning back to Earth.
Although recently announced for January 17, DM-1 will most likely launch with a slight delay, notes Spaceflight Now.
“This will be the first uncrewed test flight of the Commercial Crew Program and will provide data on the performance of the Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon spacecraft, and ground systems, as well as on-orbit, docking and landing operations,” explained NASA.
“The flight test also will provide valuable data toward NASA certifying SpaceX’s crew transportation system for carrying astronauts to and from the space station.”
The big event will be broadcast on NASA Live for the whole world to see. Meanwhile, 120 lucky social media users will be traveling to Kennedy Space Center to attend the Crew Dragon launch in person, the Inquisitr previously reported.
SpaceX is rolling out a Falcon 9 rocket with the first space-worthy Crew Dragon spacecraft to foggy launch pad 39A in Florida this morning for tests. The capsule could launch in the coming weeks — without astronauts — on a test flight to the space station. https://t.co/xnhd4aNAZK pic.twitter.com/L41D2pfv0X— Spaceflight Now (@SpaceflightNow) January 3, 2019
Depending on the success of DM-1, SpaceX will gear up for Crew Dragon’s first manned mission — right after the company performs an in-flight abort test to make sure that the astronaut pod can safely transport people into space. Dubbed DM-2, this second orbital test flight is scheduled to take place by the middle of the year — when NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will fly the Dragon to the ISS, as noted by the Inquisitr.
Meanwhile, Boeing is also preparing to launch a new-generation crew ship into space. The CST-100 will take off on its test flight to low Earth orbit later this year. While the mission was originally targeted for March, “that schedule is now out-of-date,” states Spaceflight Now, “and NASA has not provided a revised timeframe for the mission.”