SpaceX's unmanned Crew Dragon to launch on March 2 to ISS

SpaceX plans a test flight of its astronaut capsule next week — but without astronauts

Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket at a launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida

The flight plan calls for the Demo-1 Crew Dragon to stay at the orbiting lab for just under a week, undocking on March 8 and aiming for a splashdown in the Atlantic off Florida.

During the review on Friday, crew members on station utilized a computer-based trainer and reviewed procedures to refresh themselves with the Crew Dragon spacecraft systems, rendezvous and docking, ingress operations, changes to emergency responses, and vehicle departure.

One of those risks is SpaceX's rocket canister, which has been redesigned since one caused a devastating explosion in 2016 after bursting inside a Falcon 9 rocket's liquid oxygen tank. "It's great that we're getting ready to go do this".

Russian colleagues ... had some concerns. The Crew Dragon doesn't have this function. We're going to continue to work with them on those concerns. "We think we have sufficient rationale for that". Koenigsmann said he didn't know the name of the mannequin. "We always learn from tests", Lueders added. Anticipating potential weather or technical issues, SpaceX should have three opportunities to launch between March 2 and March 9, but if it misses this window it's not clear when the company would have another attempt.

Demo-1 will be followed by a crewed test flight carrying NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. The private company had to overhaul its cargo capsule for astronauts.

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Both Boeing's Starliner and SpaceX's Dragon unmanned missions were earlier scheduled for 2018 launch, but were delayed due to lack of clearance by NASA.

In August 2018, NASA also revealed the names of nine USA astronauts who will fly on the first certification flights for Boeing's Starliner and SpaceX's Dragon.

If those flights go well, operational USA crew rotation flights could begin before the end of the year. Given the ever-present possibility of unexpected problems with the commercial crew ships, NASA is studying an option of purchasing two additional Soyuz seats, one for use in the fall and the other next spring.

In 2014, Boeing and SpaceX were awarded a combined $6.8 billion in contracts from NASA to develop spacecraft capable of flying crews to the space station.

When Boeing or SpaceX launch NASA astronauts it will mark the first time an American has launched to low Earth orbit from USA soil since 2011.

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