NASA gives go-ahead for SpaceX commercial crew test flight


WASHINGTON — NASA managers have given their approval for SpaceX to proceed with an uncrewed test flight of its Crew Dragon spacecraft on March 2.

At the conclusion of a day-long flight readiness review at the Kennedy Space Center Feb. 22, NASA announced that it approved plans for SpaceX to fly a mission designated Demo-1, featuring its Crew Dragon spacecraft but without astronauts on board, to the International Space Station. The review featured more than 100 people from NASA and SpaceX, examining the readiness of both the spacecraft and the station to support the mission.

The current schedule calls for a launch at 2:48 a.m. Eastern March 2, in an instantaneous launch window. The Falcon 9, lifting off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, will put the Crew Dragon into orbit. The spacecraft is scheduled to dock with the ISS one day later and remain there until March 8, when it will undock and splash down several hours later in the Atlantic Ocean.

Prior to the review, NASA had telegraphed that the mission would likely stick to the March 2 date announced in early February. NASA issued a Feb. 20 press release with a detailed schedule of briefings and other events leading up to a March 2 launch.

Demo-1 will be followed by a crewed test flight carrying NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. That mission, Demo-2, is scheduled for no earlier than July, a schedule that will depend on what work will be needed to respond to issues discovered during the Demo-1 test.

An in-flight abort test of Crew Dragon spacecraft will take place between Demo-1 and Demo-2. That mission is scheduled for June, according to a NASA schedule released in early February, but SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk said on Twitter Feb. 21 that the mission could take place in April, using the same Falcon 9 first stage that just launched the Nusantara Satu communications satellite and two secondary payloads.

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