SpaceX sends Ripley dummy to ISS space station

Cristina Cross
March 2, 2019

The Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 on the launch pad in Florida earlier this week.

SpaceX, in the first test demonstration of a commercial crew capsule created to send astronauts to the International Space Station, plans to launch its Crew Dragon spacecraft on Saturday, March 2, at 2:49 a.m. ET, from NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

The launch at NASA's Kennedy Space Center is scheduled for 2:48 a.m. EST, with a backup window available next Tuesday at 1:38 a.m. EST.

But a lot more is resting on this launch.

"Actually having a reentry, with Ripley in the seat, in the position, is critical", said Kathy Lueders, manager for NASA's Commercial Crew Program, during a pre-flight media conference.

This week, NASA and SpaceX revealed that Crew Dragon had met all the requirements and been cleared for its test flight to the International Space Station this weekend. Instead, a test dummy will be traveling in the capsule, which is expected to dock with the ISS Sunday.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon - the first crew-capable spacecraft the company has ever produced - is about to be tested in a big way. "Ripley", Musk wrote in a post accompanying the picture, referring to the character played by Sigourney Weaver in the famous film and its sequels.

Ripley will wear the same, white SpaceX spacesuit that astronauts will in future missions.

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NASA doesn't expect this crucial shakedown cruise to go perfectly. But they have their interest in the mission for good reason - two NASA astronauts strap into a Dragon as early as July.

The Crew Dragon capsule will instead ferry a spacesuit-clad dummy - similar to the one launched into space previous year aboard a Elon Musk's old Tesla Roadster.

Boeing is also in the race to end NASA's eight-year drought of launching USA astronauts on United States rockets from U.S. soil.

NASA has awarded SpaceX and Boeing Co $6.8 billion to build competing rocket and capsule systems to launch astronauts into orbit from American soil for the first time since the U.S. Space Shuttle was retired from service in 2011.

Boeing, meanwhile, is building a spacecraft called the CST-100 Starliner, which launches on Atlas V rockets and aims to make its debut uncrewed test in April.

The Crew Dragon is created to fly astronauts to the International Space Station on the company's Falcon 9 rocket as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program. Naming mistakes aside, the dummy's mission will be to gather data on what the flight experience will be like for an actual human astronaut, who will hopefully hop a flight on SpaceX later this year. The first Boeing mission to the International Space Station will be crewed by NASA astronauts Josh Cassada and Suni Williams. NASA announced the upcoming launch earlier this week, and now it is back with a full launch schedule.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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