NASA's agreement with the Russian space program Roscomos is rapidly coming to an end, and without a new agreement in place or crew-capable spacecrafts of its own, NASA astronauts would have no presence aboard the orbiting laboratory.
I guarantee everything will not work exactly right and that's cool.
Visit Space.com tonight for complete coverage of SpaceX's Crew Dragon Demo-1 mission.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft is rolled out to Launch Complex 39A for a dry run to prep for the upcoming Demo-1 flight test at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on January 3, 2019.
SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket are positioned inside the company's hangar at Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on December 18, 2018.
Because this is just a demonstration, there are no astronauts aboard - but there will be a space-suited mannequin.
The launching is timed to coincide with the moment Earth's rotation carries the pad into the plane of the International Space Station's orbit.
Ripley will wear the same, white SpaceX spacesuit that astronauts will in future missions. Ripley is similar to Starman, which blasted off previous year in the driver's seat of Musk's red Tesla convertible, on a test launch of the company's bigger Falcon Heavy rocket. Liftoff is set for 2:49 a.m. EST (0749 GMT) from Pad 39A - the exact same site used by NASA's Apollo moon shots and where, almost eight years ago, the agency launched its final space shuttle mission. 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.
Ripley will be an integral part of Demo-1, the first uncrewed test flight of SpaceX's futuristic passenger craft that could one day ferry astronauts to the ISS - and the dummy, which is already strapped into the Dragon capsule, is packed with sensors.
Last year NASA announced the nine astronauts that will crew the test flights and first missions of the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft.
"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.
If all goes well, SpaceX's Crew Dragon could be the first American spacecraft to ferry astronauts to space from USA soil since the last Space Shuttle mission in 2011 - and Ripley is getting a first taste of what that'll feel like.