SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, Falcon 9 ‘go vertical’

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, Falcon 9 ‘go vertical’

Louis Dillon

SpaceX has moved its Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket to the launchpad ahead of an uncrewed test flight within the next month.

The capsule and rocket have been rolled out to Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where it will undergo a series of fit checks ahead of the test launch to the International Space Station (ISS).

NASA and SpaceX had targeted 17 January as the date for the spacecraft's test flight, but is more likely to fly later than that date due to the ongoing partial government shutdown.

SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk tweeted on 5 January that Crew Dragon was "about a month away from the first orbital test flight".

If the test goes as planned, SpaceX will launch its first crewed flight (SpX-DM2) around June later this year, with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.

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That launch will shuttle the pair to the ISS.

Dragon has been delivering cargo to the ISS since 2012, but was "designed from the beginning to carry people", with an advanced emergency escape system tested in 2015, which SpaceX said can "swiftly carry astronauts to safety if something were to go wrong, experiencing about the same g-forces as a ride at Disneyland".

SpX-DM2 would be the first crewed flight of an American spacecraft into orbit since July 2011.

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