Published: Sat, March 02, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

SpaceX to launch capsule to space station in key milestone

SpaceX to launch capsule to space station in key milestone

NASA has selected a new mission that will help scientists understand and, ultimately, forecast the vast space weather system around our planet. The launch and docking is the first real test of the craft and the Commercial Crew Program as a whole. And eight engines are built into the capsule walls for use in an emergency; these abort engines could shoot the capsule off a malfunctioning rocket anytime during the launch.

The life-size test dummy Ripley-wearing SpaceX's slick new spacesuit-is strapped into one of the capsule's seats. The Roadster launched on top of the first successfully launched Falcon Heavy rocket last February.

Kennedy Space Center's historic Launch Complex 39A, used a half-century ago for Apollo moon shots and later space shuttle flights, has been remodeled and gussied up by tenant SpaceX. The old bridge for rocket-boarding astronauts was open to the elements. "They're very happy that it's covered, and we're trying to keep the mosquitoes out".

William Gerstenmaier, the associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA, said at a news conference last week that the launch "is an absolutely critical first step".

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the first privately developed spacecraft created to ferry USA astronauts to orbit since NASA's shuttle was retired eight years ago is on track for blastoff on an unpiloted test flight early Saturday.

This mission is a night owl's dream, with most of the big events happening in the wee hours. The first Boeing mission to the International Space Station will be crewed by NASA astronauts Josh Cassada and Suni Williams.

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According to the latest update from the meteorologists at the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing, there is an 80 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for Saturday morning's launch window. Then, on Friday, March 8 at around 2:30 a.m. ET, the capsule will leave the space station and some five hours later fall through Earth's atmosphere.

The first Crew Dragon to carry people is due to launch in July, and the astronauts who will fly that Demo-2 mission - Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley - will be watching the Demo-1 flight from its launch control center.

Boeing, meanwhile, is building a spacecraft called the CST-100 Starliner, which launches on Atlas V rockets and aims to make its debut uncrewed test in April.

"The uncrewed flight tests are a great dry run for not only our hardware, but for our team to get ready for our crewed flight tests", Kathy Lueders, manager of the commercial crew program, said in a news release.

Since the shuttle Atlantis returned to earth on July 21, 2011, no United States astronaut has blasted off from American soil to go to the worldwide.

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