SpaceX’s new Crew Dragon capsule won’t have any human passengers when it makes its debut flight Saturday, but it will be carrying a spacesuit-clad dummy similar to the one launched into space last year aboard a Tesla Roadster.
Launch of the gumdrop-shaped capsule and the Falcon 9 rocket carrying it is scheduled for 2:49 a.m. ET from Cape Canaveral, Florida — and you can watch the action live on NASA TV. Coverage starts at 2 a.m. ET.
The capsule will head to the International Space Station carrying 450 pounds of cargo in addition to the dummy, which will be wearing the same SpaceX spacesuits that astronauts will don on future flights. The capsule will dock with the station March 3 and then spend a week in orbit before returning to Earth on March 8, splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean.
The mission will be a critical test of the capsule. SpaceX has been flying robotic cargo craft to the station since 2012, but Crew Dragon is designed to carry humans. NASA will be watching the capsule's performance closely as part of its ongoing evaluation of the spacecraft before giving it the green light to carry humans.
If the upcoming mission is successful, SpaceX will send the capsule on one more uncrewed flight before NASA schedules its first flight with two astronauts aboard.
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon was developed in partnership with NASA to help the space agency end its reliance on Russian rockets and space capsules to take its astronauts to the space station. In 2014, NASA awarded SpaceX and Boeing — which is developing its own astronaut-carrying space vehicle — a combined $6.8 billion contract to build a pair of new spacecraft.
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule is expected to undergo its first uncrewed test flight in April.
Want more stories about spaceflight?
- How much does space travel cost?
- Space shuttle relic to be resurrected as deep-space habitat
- The animals that paved the way for humans in space