NASA Clears SpaceX Crew Dragon March 2 Test Flight to Space Station

NASA Clears SpaceX Crew Dragon March 2 Test Flight to Space Station

NASA Clears SpaceX Crew Dragon March 2 Test Flight to Space Station

NASA managers held a flight readiness review Friday and cleared SpaceX to press ahead with work to ready a Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon commercial ferry ship for launch March 2 on an unpiloted test flight to the International Space Station.

SpaceX crewed mission Demo-2 is now slated for July 2019 and Boeing's Starliner mission for August 2019. But the capsule will still fly to the International Space Station, following its planned March 2 liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

"It's exciting to have set the launch for March 2nd", said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, during the conference. In the meantime, this mission will see the capsule docked at the International Space Station for just under a week, before returning to Earth with science samples and used equipment.

"It's a really big deal for SpaceX", said Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of the company founded by billionaire Elon Musk.

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Space X has been making space station shipments since 2012.

NASA signed contracts in 2014 with SpaceX and Boeing for the companies to shuttle U.S. astronauts to the ISS.

Demo-1 will be followed by a crewed test flight carrying NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. Officials stressed much work remains to be done, with problems possibly solved through redesign, before the capsule is qualified to carry humans.

Assuming no major problems develop - and assuming an in-flight abort test goes well this spring - astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley hope to blast off in a Crew Dragon this summer to kick off the first launch of USA astronauts aboard an American-made rocket from US soil since the shuttle program ended in July 2011.

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The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket scheduled to soar at 2:48 a.m. EST on March 2 is brand new. In NASA's statement, the agency outlined the safety precautions it would be taking for each mission. SpaceX plans to conduct a high-altitude launch abort in April, reusing this same capsule.

This will be the first time the USA space agency lets a private-sector company transport their astronauts.

In August 2018, NASA also revealed the names of nine U.S. astronauts who will fly on the first certification flights for Boeing's Starliner and SpaceX's Dragon.

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