March 24, 2019

Ripley, the SpaceX test dummy, is buckled in and ready for launch

02 March 2019, 10:28 | Edward Lowe

Space NASA will spend $42 million to better understand space weather Mike Wehner @MikeWehner

																	NASA will spend $42 million to better understand space weather					
		Mike Wehner			@MikeWehner

In the early hours of Saturday morning, billionaire Elon Musk will be nervously watching the skies as his rocket company SpaceX attempts its first launch of the Crew Dragon spaceship.

"We instrumented the crap out of that vehicle", said Kathy Lueders, the manager of NASA´s Commercial Crew program.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket are positioned inside the company's hangar at Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on December 18, 2018.

As of Friday, the forecast looked good for the weekend, with meteorologists predicting an 80 percent chance of favorable weather. It's a milestone moment for American space exploration, marking the first test launch from United States soil involving a commercially-built and operated American spacecraft/rocket system intended for crewed missions. If everything isn't ideal and ready to go right at 2:49 a.m. EST, the launch will be pushed back to Tuesday at the earliest.

Online stream: CBSN live on your mobile device or in the video player above when the event starts.

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If all goes as planned, on Sunday, the module will autonomously dock with the International Space Station for the first time.

Planning has been delayed by around three years, with the first manned SpaceX flight still penciled in for July, though officials frequently refer to the end of 2019 as a more realistic deadline.

What is expected to happen after liftoff?

There's a SpaceX launch here in Florida early Saturday, but you'll likely need to set your alarm clock to watch it.

Carrying out a series of tests along the way, the 13-ton capsule will approach from directly in front of the outpost, slowly moving in for docking at the lab's forward port around 6 the two spacecraft orbit in tandem at almost five miles per second.

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He added that United States astronauts would also be monitoring the process from their section and would be ready to close off the station's hatches if they see an emergency is likely to happen during the docking.

In 2014, NASA tapped SpaceX (and rival Boeing as well) to fly astronauts to the station under the agency's Commercial Crew program, which aims to restore the ability to fly American astronauts into orbit from USA soil.

What is the objective of the mission? The Crew Dragon capsule, which is designed for astronauts, will not be carrying any human crew when it makes its journey to the International Space Station.

"Space weather is important because it can have profound impacts-affecting technology and astronauts in space, disrupting radio communications and, at its most severe, overwhelming power grids", says NASA. The space agency is turning to private taxi rides to reduce its pricey reliance on Russian rockets to get astronauts to and from the space station.

Engineering data collected during the flight will be used to shed light on a variety of known technical issues, ranging from the performance of the capsule's parachutes to temperature-related problems with its maneuvering thrusters and certification of redesigned high-pressure helium tanks, that must be addressed before the first astronauts fly this summer.

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