NASA, SpaceX look ready to finally launch Crew Dragon capsule to ISS

NASA just dropped some enticing new details about the much anticipated and much delayed test flight.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule gets ready ahead of an uncrewed test flight.


Delays and space flights are close companions. NASA has pushed back the launch date for the SpaceX Demo-1 uncrewed test flight of the Crew Dragon capsule several times already, but new details make it sound like early March could finally be go time.

NASA shared details of the mission on Wednesday, including a launch-time target of 11:48 p.m. Pacific on Friday, Mar. 1 (2:48 a.m. Eastern on Saturday, Mar. 2). "The uncrewed test flights will be the first time a commercially built and operated American rocket and spacecraft designed for humans will launch to the space station," the agency says.

The Crew Dragon capsule will lift off with an assist from a Falcon 9 rocket and head to the International Space Station. It's scheduled to dock at the ISS on March 3 very early in the morning. Though it won't have any humans on board, it will be stocked with 400 pounds of crew supplies and equipment. 

SpaceX has looked ready to get going on this mission for quite some time. The capsule and Falcon 9 are already in position on the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. SpaceX tweeted a dramatic static test fire on Jan. 24, back when it was still targeting a February launch.

The Crew Dragon is set to hang out at the ISS for five days and then come back to Earth carrying research samples. If all goes well, the capsule will reenter Earth's atmosphere and land in the Atlantic Ocean for recovery. 

NASA TV will cover prelaunch events starting on Feb. 22 and follow the actual launch at the scheduled time if there are no further delays.

The Crew Dragon launch will mark a major milestone in NASA's Commercial Crew Program, which features both SpaceX and Boeing working to bring launches back to US soil. NASA has been hitching astronaut rides to the ISS on Russian Soyuz spacecraft. 

If Dragon passes its uncrewed flight testing, it could then be cleared to ferry astronauts into space as early as mid-2019 and begin a new era in American spaceflight. 

Update, February 20 at 9:11 p.m. PT: This story has been updated to correct and clarify the scheduled launch time.  

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