SpaceX Taking Next Steps Towards Sending Astronauts into Space

New NASA Mission To Study Space Weather From International Space Station

Private American aerospace company SpaceX is set to launch its Crew Dragon capsule, a major step on the road to safely sending astronauts into orbit; insight from former NASA astronaut Mike Massimino. This six-day mission - which carries along a test dummy covered in sensors, nicknamed Ripley - endeavors to blast into space, attach to the space station, and then parachute back down to Earth.

California's SpaceX firm is performing a demonstration of a new rocket and capsule system, which, if it works well, will be approved to carry people.

The next tricky step for the capsule will be docking at the ISS on Sunday at around 1100 GMT, with a return to Earth scheduled for next Friday.

Looking on from Kennedy's Launch Control were the two Nasa astronauts who will strap in as early as July for the second space demo, Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken.

Boeing is also in the race to end NASA's eight-year drought of launching USA astronauts on US rockets from USA soil. Ripley is similar to Starman, which blasted off a year ago in the driver's seat of Musk's red Tesla convertible, on a test launch of the company's bigger Falcon Heavy rocket.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule blasted off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on schedule at 2:49 a.m. Saturday.

NASA has hired two companies - SpaceX and Boeing - to design and build new space taxis.

"The Explorers Program seeks innovative ideas for small and cost-constrained missions that can help unravel the mysteries of the universe and explore our place in it", said Paul Hertz, NASA's Director of Astrophysics. "I thought maybe we'd have a 10 percent chance of reaching orbit starting out", Silicon Valley billionaire Musk said of his feelings when he founded the space company in 2002.

The station prepares for the arrival of the SpaceX uncrewed Demo-1 test flight.

NASA is anxious for reliable transit to and from the space station.

2019 is a big year for NASA.

"It's been a long eight years", Cabana said, as SpaceX employees milled around the rocket, staged vertically on the legendary launch pad where the Apollo Moon missions took off.

"I nearly thought we would fail".

NASA plans to livestream the SpaceX Crew Dragon launch as it happens through its NASA TV website; the live video can be accessed here and the network's broadcast schedule can be viewed here. Once it successfully docks, it will stay there for about five days full of roughly 400 lbs of supplies for the astronauts on board the station.

"This mission absolutely meets that standard with a creative and cost-effective mission to solve mysteries about Earth's upper atmosphere", said Hertz.

NASA officials initially said that their Russian colleagues had concerns related to the USA agency's lack of a backup computer system to prevent Crew Dragon from colliding with the ISS if the vehicle goes dead.

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