SpaceX Crew Access Arm: Bridge to the Crew Dragon

SpaceX Crew Access Arm: Bridge to the Crew Dragon

SpaceX Crew Access Arm: Bridge to the Crew Dragon

SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule will make its debut when it launches atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center early on Saturday. But there will be a crew member of sorts.

"We call it a 'smartie, ' and her name is Ripley", Koenigsmann told reporters at a pre-launch briefing.

Workers monitor the transporter-erector vehicle as it rolls the Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft toward the launch pad.

The first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket, which will carry the capsule, will return to a drone ship off the coast of Florida.

This mission is created to test all the systems in advance of crewed missions later this year.

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Saturday's eagerly-anticipated launch is the first under NASA's Commercial Crew Program.

"Our Demo-1 launch readiness review is complete, and we are still "go" for launch", the commercial crew program announced on Twitter.

In addition to Ripley, the craft will be carrying 400 pounds of supplies and equipment for the station. Its crew demo will take place in mid-2019.

Over the past few weeks, Russian space officials have voiced concerns about whether there was adequate backup computer capacity on the Dragon for the crucial hookup.

A spacesuit-wearing, instrument-laden mannequin nicknamed "Ripley" sits inside SpaceX's Crew Dragon spaceship. The hatch will open two hours and 45 minutes after docking for the astronauts to enter the capsule (take a look around the inside of the crew module in this NASA video). Meanwhile, cameras attached to the station's Canadian-built robotic arm will inspect the exterior.

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At the beginning of a year ago, NASA announced SpaceX and Boeing would complete test flights for their commercial crew spacecraft, Crew Dragon and Starliner, in August.

NASA said that the astronauts, who are already preparing for the Crew Dragon's arrival, will be able to explore the new capsule after it's docked.

Its Falcon 9 rockets have resupplied the space station 15 times in seven years, even though one of them blew up in 2015. It's been buying rides on board the Roscosmos capsules since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011.

However, there's a good chance that the stated flight schedule will slip. Reuters reported on February 21 that SpaceX and Boeing both must address significant design and safety concerns before they can fly humans. During the flight, engineers will test a variety of systems and components: the module's environmental control systems, solar arrays, electrical power systems, communication systems, propulsion systems and more.

Additional "unknown unknowns" may well come to light during the uncrewed test flights, or during launch abort tests that SpaceX and Boeing are due to execute in the months ahead. The first uncrewed flight is an important step in returning human launches on American rockets and spacecraft to the space station from USA soil since 2011.

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