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

It is nearly time for crewed flights on SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft

That changed this week when NASA convened a "flight readiness review" for SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft for its initial test flight, without people on board. That's the only way current rockets can rendezvous with an orbital target moving at almost five miles per second.

"But we know the hardware is good enough to go do this demonstration flight", he said.

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. In NASA's statement, the agency outlined the safety precautions it would be taking for each mission.

Crew Dragon, also known as Dragon 2, is a reusable spacecraft designed as a successor to the Dragon space freighter. But the capsule will still fly to the International Space Station, following its planned March 2 liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

"Following each flight, NASA will review performance data to ensure each upcoming mission is as safe as possible".

The station's crew - Russian commander Oleg Kononenko, Canadian physician-astronaut David Saint-Jacques and NASA flight engineer Anne McClain - will open hatches and inspect the new spacecraft a few hours after docking.

This undated photo made available by SpaceX on Feb 6, 2019 shows the Dragon crew capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket at the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida where the Saturn Vs and space shuttles were launched.

NASA has allocated SpaceX $2.6 billion, and rival Boeing about $4 billion for the establishment of a separate system of rockets and capsules for the delivery of American astronauts to the ISS.

The approval cleared a key hurdle for SpaceX in its quest to help NASA revive America's human spaceflight program, stalled since space shuttle missions came to an end in 2011.

Both companies plan significant safety exercises this summer before they can fly with crews. - By next weekend, the USA could be one step closer to launching astronauts from American soil again. Its first Starliner demo is targeted for April, and the second, with astronauts, no earlier than August. 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.



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