The maiden flight of the Crew Dragon – an uncrewed test mission to the International Space Station(ISS) called Demo-1 – is scheduled to launch Jan 7, NASA officials announced today.
The launch test is a crucial milestone in the space agency’s Commercial Crew Program, which aims to launch humans to space from U.S. soil for the first time in nearly a decade.
The U.S National Aeronautics and Space Administration said SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft – which will shuttle three astronauts to space from the same launch pad that sent Apollo 11’s three man crew to the moon in 1969 – will make it’s debut flight atop SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket on Jan 7.
While NASA did not detail the flight path, it said it would provide data on the performance of the Falcon 9, Crew Dragon capsule, and ground systems, as well as on-orbit ,docking and landing operations.
Since the US space shuttle program was shut down in 2011, NASA has had to rely on Russia to fly astronauts to the space station , a $100 billion orbital research laboratory that flies about 250 miles(402 km) above Earth.
Aerospace giant Boeing also hands a NASA commercial – crew contract, which it seeks to fulfill using the CST -100 Starliner capsule. Startliner’s uncrewed and uncrewed tests flights are scheduled to take place in March 2019 and August 2019, respectively with an in-flight abort test sandwiched between the two.
The most recent Soyuz crew launch toward the ISS ,on Oct 11, had to be aborted after the rocket experienced problems about 2 minutes into flight.The crew members, NASA astronaut Nick Hague and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin, made a safe emergency landing in their Soyuz spacecraft.
An investigations traced the cause of the launch failure to a deformed sensor, which led to an abnormal separation of one of the Soyuz’s four strap-on boosters.
The Demo-1 launch is the latest test in a rigorous certification timeline imposed under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.While SpaceX is targeting early January, NASA spokesperson Marie Lewis said the demo mission could be pushed back because “flying safely has always taken precedence over schedule.”