Hawthorne-based SpaceX will look to achieve another milestone late Friday evening when it attempts to launch the first test flight of its sleek capsule designed to carry astronauts to the International Space Station.
The Crew Dragon, a stepped-up version of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft that is used to carry cargo to the Space Station, is scheduled for to launch at 11:49 p.m. California time Friday from Cape Canaveral in Florida, propelled by a Falcon 9 rocket. The Crew Dragon mission will be unmanned, testing the new ship’s capabilities and ability to self-dock at the Space Station.
Cargo-carrying Dragon capsules are usually captured by the Space Station’s robotic arms and brought into the docking bay. The Crew Dragon is designed to dock and un-dock on its own.
The Crew Dragon being launched Friday night will be carrying a sensor-laden mannequin, outfitted in a SpaceX spacesuit, along with about 400 pounds of supplies and equipment. The spaceship is expected to arrive at the International Space Station at about 3 a.m. California time on Sunday.
The ship will remain docked at the station until about 11:30 p.m. Pacific time March 7, when it begins its journey back to Earth. It is expected to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean — slowed by four parachutes — about six hours later.
Assuming the test flight goes well, SpaceX is scheduled to actually launch astronauts into space for a short demonstration flight this summer, possibly in July. NASA has already chosen astronauts Robert Behnken and Doug Hurley for the historic mission. Assuming no issues with that flight, two other astronauts — Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins — will later become the first humans carried by a Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station.
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