SpaceX Crew Dragon arrives at launch site for the 1st orbital crew flight from US soil since 2011

The spacecraft that will fly SpaceX’s first-ever crewed mission has made it to Florida.

A SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule arrived on Florida’s Space Coast on Thursday (Feb. 13), NASA officials said, completing a cross-country trek from the company’s California headquarters. 

“The spacecraft now will undergo final testing and prelaunch processing in a SpaceX facility on nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station,” NASA officials said in an update.

Technicians at a SpaceX processing facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station can now start prepping the vehicle for the launch that will kick off Demo-2, a historic test mission that will send NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station (ISS). 

In photos: A behind-the-scenes look at SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spaceship

Crew Dragon in Florida ahead of its flight to and from the @space_station with @NASA astronauts @AstroBehnken and @Astro_Doug onboard! 14, 2020

That liftoff is targeted for early May from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, which is next door to Cape Canaveral.

Demo-2 will mark the first crewed flight for Crew Dragon, and the first orbital human spaceflight to lift off from American soil since the final space shuttle mission in July 2011. But it won’t be the first trip to the ISS for a Crew Dragon; one of the capsules aced the uncrewed Demo-1 mission to the orbiting lab in March of last year. (That vehicle was destroyed in April during a ground-test accident.)

SpaceX employees with Crew Dragon before it departed our Hawthorne factory for the launch site in Florida – one step closer to returning human spaceflight capabilities to the United States! 12, 2020

If Demo-2 goes well, SpaceX will likely be cleared to begin operational crewed missions to the ISS for NASA. In September 2014, the space agency awarded Elon Musk’s company a $2.6 billion contract to finish development of Crew Dragon and fly six crewed flights to and from the orbiting lab.

NASA signed a similar $4.2 billion deal with Boeing, which is developing a capsule called the CST-100 Starliner. But it’s unclear when Starliner will be ready to start flying astronauts. Boeing’s vehicle suffered several software problems during its version of Demo-1 in December 2019 and failed to reach the ISS as planned.

Mike Wall’s book about the search for alien life, “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), is out now. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook


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