Published: Fri, March 01, 2019
Research | By Raquel Erickson

NASA shows off the inside of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft

NASA shows off the inside of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft

How will astronauts board the SpaceX Crew Dragon?

Because this is just a demonstration, there are no astronauts aboard - but there will be a space-suited mannequin.

"We call it a 'smartie, ' and her name is Ripley", Koenigsmann told reporters at a pre-launch briefing.

"We want to maximise our learning so we can get this stuff ready so that when we put crew on, we're ready to go do a real crew mission, and it'll be the right safety for our crews".

Because the Dragon is being launched to the space station, there's no room for delay: If liftoff doesn't occur right on time, due to weather or a technical glitch, the launch will have to be reset for a backup opportunity on the night of March 4-5.

In addition to Ripley, the craft will be carrying 400 pounds of supplies and equipment for the station.

Crew Dragon and Starliner were commissioned to replace the Space Shuttle, which was retired in 2011.

Unlike Elon Musk's Starman - which SpaceX strapped tightly to a Roadster during last year's sensational test launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket - Ripley serves an engineering objective. Meanwhile, cameras attached to the station's Canadian-built robotic arm will inspect the exterior.

The dummy will remain within the Crew Dragon capsule and contains a body full of sensors that will enable SpaceX to get a better feel for what's happening inside the capsule.

The Crew Dragon features solar arrays affixed to the side of the spacecraft's trunk, a launch escape system that will allow crew members to escape an anomaly at any point during flight, a large hatch and windows and a redesigned outer mold line to enhance crew comfort.

Elon Musk's SpaceX was due to launch an unmanned crew capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket early on Saturday bound for the International Space Station, a major step toward NASA's goal of reviving the US human spaceflight program this year. Since then, NASA has had to purchase pricey seats aboard Russia's Soyuz rocket, which cost $81 million per seat. The test launch, which is scheduled to take place early Saturday morning, will be a big deal for NASA and SpaceX regardless of the outcome, but it goes without saying that both groups have their fingers crossed for success.

The new experiment will, for the first time, obtain global observations of an important driver of space weather in a dynamic region of Earth's upper atmosphere that can cause interference with radio and GPS communications, NASA said in a statement.

The crews for those missions have already been chosen.

However, there's a good chance that the stated flight schedule will slip.

In 2015, SpaceX conducted its pad abort test seen here.

Since the shuttle Atlantis returned to earth on July 21, 2011, no U.S. astronaut has blasted off from American soil to go to the global.

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