Despite a series of unanticipated delays, it seems that SpaceX is finally poised to launch its first un-crewed demonstration flight for NASA on Saturday. The operation will encompass sending a crewless Crew Dragon spacecraft to space to validate the capability and safety of the commercial space company’s aerospace equipment for consideration as an astronaut transportation platform in the foreseeable future.
Image Credit: NASA
In an official statement released on Wednesday, NASA reveals that SpaceX’s Demo-1 flight test is scheduled to transpire at roughly 2:49 A.M. Eastern time from Launch Complex 39A at the space agency’s renowned Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This site previously played host to dozens of space shuttle missions before the program’s retirement in 2011.
As it would seem, the local weather conditions are approximately 80% favorable for a launch at the projected time, and those involved are optimistic that it will remain that way leading right up to the launch.
The Crew Dragon spacecraft will be lofted into space by none other than one of SpaceX’s signature Falcon 9 rockets, which is the same type of booster that SpaceX frequently employs to ferry fresh supplies to astronauts on the International Space Station and fly various types of spacecraft into space to orbit the Earth.
Given just how reliable SpaceX’s Falcon 9 platform has become in recent years, there’s little reason to think that anything will go wrong with the company’s rocket after the booster’s nine Merlin engines ignite. On the other hand, SpaceX has quite the critical audience to impress this time around, and so the circumstances are somewhat tense for all involved.
Assuming everything goes according to plan, SpaceX could be looking at its first crewed launch by July. Much like this weekend’s upcoming Demo-1 flight test, said crewed mission would take place on American soil, but the Crew Dragon capsule would instead have living astronauts onboard for the latter launch.
The other significant player in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, Boeing, is expected to launch its first un-crewed demonstration flight in April. Following a successful un-crewed demonstration launch, Boeing’s first crewed launch could then transpire sometime in August.
Given all the risks associated with sending living humans to outer space, it’s not very surprising to see NASA taking such care to ensure astronaut safety. Despite all the delays thus far, it’s all worth it if everyone gets where they’re going in one piece.