Graphic shows features of mission due to launch on March 2.
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March 2, 2019 - Crew Dragon is a passenger version of SpaceX’s robotic Dragon cargo ship. The reusable capsule can carry seven astronauts to the International Space Station and is built to last for a total of 10 flights before refurbishment. SpaceX has set March 2 for the first test launch of an uncrewed Crew Dragon to fly to the International Space Station.

Ever since Yuri Gagarin’s historic flight in 1961, only three global superpowers -- the Soviet Union, U.S. and China -- have launched spacecraft carrying humans into space.

Since NASA’s shuttle program ended in 2011 American astronauts have had to hitch rides aboard Russia’s Soyuz, with each seat costing as much as $82 million.

Now, if all goes to plan, the world’s first private spacecraft, crewed by NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken -- both two-time shuttle veterans -- could blast off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida and head for the ISS as early as July.

The launch will be the first in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, a contest between Boeing and SpaceX to fly six crewed NASA missions each to the ISS.

The Crew Dragon can dock automatically to the ISS, while eight powerful SuperDraco engines will allow astronauts to control their trajectory for re-entry and landing back on Earth “with the accuracy of a helicopter,” according to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

PUBLISHED:18/02/2019; STORY: Graphic News
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