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 SpaceX Crew Dragon is deep into its initial NASA Demo-1 mission and it's checked all the boxes so far.
SpaceX has signed a contract with NASA to develop the Dragon capsule. NASA's goal in awarding this contract to SpaceX is to bring crewed orbital launch back to USA soil.
The Crew Dragon craft took off Saturday morning from the Launch Complex 39-A. The three astronauts of Expedition 58 - cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, American astronaut Anne McClain and Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques - also entered Crew Dragon, which can carry up to seven astronauts. The test dummy - or Smarty as SpaceX likes to call it, given all the instrumentation - is named Ripley after the lead character in the science-fiction "Alien" films. There was an opportunity that the Crew Dragon, which Russian area operators warned didn't have a backup docking system, would fail to efficiently connect to the station.
Boeing aims to conduct the first test flight of its Starliner capsule in April, with astronauts on board possibly in August. Mythical beast will disengage itself from the space station next Friday and sprinkle down in the Atlantic Ocean, its plummet hindered by four parachutes. That the docking process went without error will not be exclusively a sigh of aid for NASA's Business Crew Program-the venture to switch the retired Area Shuttle that's years delayed-however good news for the three astronauts at present residing on the station.
Ripley and the capsule are rigged with sensors to measure noise, vibration, and stresses and monitor the life-support, propulsion, and other critical systems. Russian Soyuz seats go for up to $82 million apiece. "Just one more milestone that gets us ready for our flight coming up here". The capsule's nose cap was wide open like a dragon's mouth, to expose the docking mechanism.
The objective is to make the next demo flight, with Hurley and Behnken, as safe as possible.