A NASA official said Friday that SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft could be ready to ferry astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station as soon as early March, pending the results from a major demonstration of the ship’s launch abort system this weekend, a pair of parachute drop tests, and space station crew schedules.
SpaceX launched an unpiloted Crew Dragon spacecraft aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center at 10:30 a.m. EST (1530 GMT) Sunday. SpaceX triggered an escape maneuver using the Dragon’s thrusters about a minute-and-a-half after liftoff to verify the launch abort engines can safely carry the capsule — and astronauts on future missions — away from a failing rocket.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule were raised vertical at launch pad 39A in Florida late Thursday, setting the stage for a launch day dress rehearsal Friday with NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken — the veteran space fliers assigned to the Crew Dragon’s first piloted mission later this year — before a critical in-flight test of the ship’s emergency escape system Saturday.
SpaceX’s final planned Crew Dragon test flight before astronauts ride the commercial spaceship into orbit is scheduled for Saturday, when an unpiloted crew capsule will fire off the top of a Falcon 9 rocket shortly after launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to test the craft’s in-flight emergency escape capability.
SpaceX plans to launch its next group of Starlink broadband satellites aboard a Falcon 9 rocket as soon as Tuesday, Jan. 21, from Cape Canaveral, two days after the company is scheduled to launch a modified Falcon 9 booster from a separate facility at the Florida spaceport to test the Crew Dragon spaceship’s emergency escape system.
The sixth and final satellite in the U.S. military’s network of ultra-secure, nuclear-hardened AEHF communications relay stations has arrived in Florida for final preparations for liftoff in March on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, the first of nearly 20 U.S. Space Force missions planned for launch in the first year of operations for the new military service.
SpaceX fired up nine Merlin main engines at the bottom of a previously-flown Falcon 9 booster Saturday at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, running the rocket through a practice countdown before a scheduled liftoff Jan. 18 with a Crew Dragon capsule to test the human-rated ship’s high-altitude abort capability.
SpaceX is gearing up for launch of an unpiloted Crew Dragon spacecraft from the Kennedy Space Center for a crucial test of the crew capsule’s launch abort system. A modified Falcon 9 rocket performed a test-firing at launch pad 39A Saturday before carrying the Crew Dragon spacecraft into the upper atmosphere for an in-flight abort test scheduled for Jan. 18.
Sixty more satellites for SpaceX’s Starlink global Internet network streaked into orbit Monday night from Cape Canaveral, including one spacecraft to test an experimental dark coating to address scientists’ concerns that the thousands of the quarter-ton, flat-panel satellites will impede astronomical observations.