SpaceX will take a major step towards ending the United States’ human spaceflight gap Saturday, with the launch of their Crew Dragon spacecraft on its first demonstration flight. Flying without astronauts aboard for its Demo-1 test flight, Crew Dragon will lift off from the Kennedy Space Center at 02:49:03 Eastern Time (07:49 UTC) atop a Falcon 9 rocket.
Saturday’s launch has been years in the making and also represents a step forward for SpaceX’s ambition of taking humans to Mars through the demonstration of a spacecraft that can carry a crew to orbit and return them safely to the Earth – albeit on a smaller scale than the Starship vehicle that SpaceX plans to develop for Mars missions.
In the shorter term, Demo-1 – or DM-1 – will complete qualification objectives for NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program that – subject to a separate test of the spacecraft’s launch abort system – will put Dragon in good stead to carry its first crew to the International Space Station (ISS) later this year.
Crew Dragon – which is also known as Dragon 2 – is an evolution of the current Dragon spacecraft used for cargo and logistics missions to the space station ...