Jan 17, 2019: Big hopes resting on successful maiden voyage of Dragon crew capsule
UNITED STATES - SpaceX hopes to launch its Dragon crew spacecraft from Cape Canaveral in Florida to the International Space Station (ISS) on this date after missing several target dates in 2018. Called Demo 1, the unmanned maiden voyage atop a Falcon 9 rocket prepares the way for a crewed launch targeted for Jun 2019.
SpaceX rival Boeing, which has also suffered delays, plans to test its CST-100 Starliner crew capsule in Mar 2019. The Starliner manned test is targeted for Aug 2019. Both companies hold NASA commercial-crew contracts to ferry astronauts to the orbiting lab.
NASA grounded its space shuttle fleet after 30 years of operation in Jul 2011, and has had to rely on Russian Soyuz rockets and spacecraft to get astronauts to and from the ISS. The agency’s contract with Russia ends in 2019, leaving it dependent on the two aerospace giants.
NASA reports that the Dragon’s emergency-escape systems will be tested between the January and June launches.
SpaceX has renovated the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A, the former Apollo and shuttle pad, to support the launches of its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy vehicles, in particular crewed Falcon 9 missions.
The robotic cargo version of Dragon has been flying uncrewed resupply missions to the ISS since 2010, under a separate SpaceX contract with NASA.