SpaceX rocket with unmanned U.S. capsule blasts off for space station

04 March, 2019, 04:11 | Author: Priscilla Morrison
  • New NASA Mission To Study Space Weather From International Space Station

The spacecraft, called Crew Dragon, will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA's Kennedy Space Center here in the wee hours of Saturday, March 2, to help show the space agency that it's ready to launch astronauts.

An estimated 5,000 NASA and contractor employees, tourists and journalists gathered in the wee hours at Kennedy Space Center with the SpaceX launch team, as the Falcon 9 rocket blasted off before dawn from the same spot where Apollo moon rockets and space shuttles once soared.

The Roadster launched on top of the first successfully launched Falcon Heavy rocket last February. Between today and March 8, SpaceX will aim to prove the safety and reliability of the Crew Dragon before astronauts can take the helm in June this year.

The capsule will remain docked at the ISS for five days before returning to Earth to land in the Atlantic Ocean for recovery.

Americans haven't flown into space from USA soil since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011.

This time around, the only occupant will be a dummy named Ripley.

"Actually having a reentry, with Ripley in the seat, in the position, is critical", said Kathy Lueders, manager for NASA's Commercial Crew Program, during a pre-flight media conference. "And I'm pretty sure it's not just me, I think everybody within SpaceX feels this and wants to get this right".

The mission is crucial to SpaceX's plans to start launching astronauts from the Space Coast this summer.

It's a test flight without crew aboard, created to demonstrate the potential for carrying astronauts into orbit on a commercial spacecraft.

NASA has hired two companies - SpaceX and Boeing - to design and build new space taxis.

"I'm very comfortable with where we're headed with this flight".

"We want to have the private sector operating more than they now are in lower earth orbit as well as expanding outward beyond Earth", says Forczyk.

No American astronaut has blasted off from United States soil for a space mission since July 2011, when the Atlantis, the last mission of Nasa's Space Shuttle programme, returned to Earth.

"This mission absolutely meets that standard with a creative and cost-effective mission to solve mysteries about Earth's upper atmosphere", said Hertz. Crew Dragon will be able to dock on its own. Planning has been delayed by around three years, with the first manned SpaceX flight still pencilled in for July, though officials frequently refer to the end of 2019 as a more realistic deadline. "Early on, our goal was human spaceflight", he said. Reuters reported on February 21 that SpaceX and Boeing both must address significant design and safety concerns before they can fly humans.

Anne McClain, the American aboard the space station, says she's looking forward to saying hello.



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