Safest trajectory selected for Crew Dragon to dock with orbital outpost

This image courtesy of SpaceX and obtained from NASA shows the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft rolled out to Launch Complex 39A at NASA Kennedy Space

Safest trajectory selected for Crew Dragon to dock with orbital outpost

How will astronauts board the SpaceX Crew Dragon?

The launch at NASA's Kennedy Space Center is scheduled for 2:48 a.m. EST, with a backup window available next Tuesday at 1:38 a.m. EST. The SpaceX rocket launch marks the first time a commercially built spacecraft designed for human travel will dock with the International Space Station (ISS). SpaceX is shooting for a July crew launch, but that could slip depending on the results of the upcoming demo and a launch abort test this spring. Accordingly, this is an absolutely critical first step in moving towards returning the crewed launch capability back to the United States, said William Gerstenmaier, the associate administrator with NASA Human Exploration and Operations.

Kennedy Space Center's historic Launch Complex 39A, used a half-century ago for Apollo moon shots and later space shuttle flights, has been remodeled and gussied up by tenant SpaceX.

It's been eight long years since astronauts launched from USA soil.

Boeing aims to conduct the first test flight of its Starliner capsule in April, with astronauts on board possibly in August.

The dummy that will ride in the capsule - which SpaceX´s Hans Koenigsmann prefers to call a "smartie" - has been nicknamed Ripley in honor of the character played by Sigourney Weaver in the "Alien" movies.

If all goes well with Crew Dragon's launch, the spacecraft will arrive at the International Space Station early Sunday (March 3) and spend five days docked at the orbiting laboratory before returning to Earth on March 8.

After its shuttle program was shuttered in July 2011 following a 30-year run, NASA's manned flights came to an end.

For SpaceX, this flight is a key milestone in its 17-year history. Weather permitting, liftoff is planned for 2:49 a.m. EST (07:49 GMT) from Florida's Space Coast.

The life-size test dummy Ripley-wearing SpaceX's slick new spacesuit-is strapped into one of the capsule's seats. "Human spaceflight is a core value of business of SpaceX". The launch comes nine years after NASA invested about £38million ($50million) into its Commercial Crew Program. On March 8, it will undock and re-enter the Earth's atmosphere, splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean around 8:45 a.m. ET. The Roadster launched on top of the first successfully launched Falcon Heavy rocket last February.

When the decades-old shuttle program ended amid rising costs and growing safety concerns, NASA started relying on commercial companies to take supplies to the space station. Some of the equipment needs more work - possibly even redesign - before serving human passengers. Following the static fire test of the SpaceX rocket with the capsule on top, the company's CEO and founder, Elon Musk, tweeted that if the uncrewed launch went well, he expected the first crewed launch sometime during the summer.

NASA hopes to end its reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

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