SpaceX gets NASA’s approval to test launch Crew Dragon
In a joint press conference, NASA and SpaceX officials said that SpaceX has been approved to conduct the first orbital launch of the Crew Dragon.
The launch could come as early as March 2, and would be the last and most important hurdle to cross before SpaceX can send actual human astronauts to the International Space Station.
Since the Space Shuttle was retired in 2011, astronauts have had to make their way to the ISS via Russian Soyuz capsules. In order for SpaceX to take up the responsibility, it needs to prove it can make the full round trip without a hitch, including sending astronauts to the ISS, docking, and bringing them safely back to Earth with an ocean splash-down and boat recovery.
The Demo-1 Flight Readiness Review has concluded. The Board set March 2 at 2:48 a.m. EST as the official launch date for @SpaceX’s flight to @Space_Station. #LaunchAmerica https://t.co/2DIJ99guG2 pic.twitter.com/86lV29gVNS
— NASA Commercial Crew (@Commercial_Crew) February 22, 2019
Considering the company is already behind schedule, passing the Demo-1 FRR is a big milestone.
The DM-1 Crew Dragon launch is slated for very early Saturday morning will be identical to the DM-2 launch, except that it will have dummies on board instead of actual astronauts.
If the DM-1 launch goes as planned, we could see the DM-2 launch in just a few months.
NASA will be live streaming much of the mission, including the launch, docking, and the return to Earth. The launch and docking will take place on Saturday and Sunday respectively, with the return scheduled for March 7.