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The Sciences

SpaceX's Crew Dragon Might Launch Next Month



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The Falcon 9 rocket sits with the Crew Dragon capsule and the new astronaut walkway on launch pad 39A. (Credit: SpaceX)

Crew Dragon Launch

In just about a month, SpaceX’s first Crew Dragon spacecraft might launch for the first time on an uncrewed orbital test flight to the International Space Station, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk stated on Jan 5 on Twitter. Previously, SpaceX had suggested that the launch would take place Jan 17. After Musk said that the launch was about a month away, NASA confirmed in a statement today that an uncrewed test flight will take place no sooner than February. Still, no official new launch date has been announced. NASA said that these delays are due to the team needing additional time "to complete hardware testing and joint reviews." But, as SpaceNews suggested, it's possible that the U.S. government shutdown, which furloughed about 95 percent of NASA's civil servant workforce, could be partially responsible.

Launch Prep

The launch is set to take place at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where ground teams have already rolled out SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket to launch the craft. Musk shared a photograph of the Falcon 9 on launch pad 39A with the Crew Dragon and a brand-new walkway that astronauts will walk down to board the craft in future crewed launches. After sharing the approximate launch window on Twitter, Musk added in a later tweet that the Crew Dragon’s first flights will be “especially dangerous, as there’s a lot of new hardware.” SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is a spacecraft designed to ferry both humans and cargo to space. During this uncrewed mission, known as Demo-1, the craft will stay at the space station for a few weeks before splashing back down on Earth. The purpose of this mission is to show that the spacecraft is capable of making the trip safely before any astronauts are on board. Once safety is proven, the company hopes to begin ferrying NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station, which would break the agency's reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft. SpaceX had originally hoped to launch the first crewed test flight of their rocket as early as June of this year. Given the unpredictability of spaceflight, it's possible that this launch may get pushed back further as well.

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