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SpaceX launch: Watch Crew Dragon dock with the International Space Station

Witness history (again) as the Crew Dragon Demo-1 mission docks with the ISS.

Now playing: Watch this: SpaceX's Crew Dragon launches to the ISS

The SpaceX Crew Dragon is on its way to the ISS on its first test flight.


We've seen SpaceX's Crew Dragon hurdle multiple delays and survive the scrutiny of a flight readiness review, and we've watched the the capsule escape from this planet with the help of a Falcon 9 rocket early Saturday morning. But there's another huge test: Getting the Crew Dragon to autonomously dock with the International Space Station.

For space fans in the US trying to keep up with the historic, uncrewed Demonstration 1 (Demo-1) mission, SpaceX has scheduled the docking for approximately 06:05 a.m. ET on Sunday, March 3 and will broadcast the proceedings live on NASA TV starting at 3:30 a.m. PT on Friday evening. You can catch the stream below:

After successfully navigating the launch, Crew Dragon is slowly moving toward the ISS in low Earth orbit trying to gobble up another piece of space history. Notably, it's the first time the international docking adapter aboard the ISS will be used. The unmanned Crew Dragon will use a suite of autonomous sensors to align itself with the space station and safely connect to the adapter.

Demo-1 will mark a serious step forward for NASA's Commercial Crew Program, which involves SpaceX and Boeing working to launch astronauts from US soil. 

NASA hopes to end its reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft. It's been buying rides on board the Roscosmos capsules since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011.

While SpaceX has flown Dragon cargo capsules to the International Space Station, the crew version is longer and heavier and designed to hold four astronauts. 

On Thursday, SpaceX and NASA got the Falcon 9 rocket upright at the historic Launch Complex 39A, the same pad many astronauts departed the planet from during NASA's Space Shuttle era. 

This Crew Dragon test mission will carry crew supplies and equipment on board. It will also have a special guest dummy, with Elon Musk introducing "Ripley" to the world on Thursday.

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. She gets her name from the famous badass space warrant officer made famous in the Alien franchise, Ellen Ripley. 

"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.

The capsule, which is carrying around 400 pounds of cargo and supplies, will remain docked at the ISS for five days before returning to Earth to land in the Atlantic Ocean on March 8 -- provided everything goes well today.

NASA has referred to initial uncrewed test flights as "dress rehearsals for missions with astronauts aboard the vehicles." 

If Demo-1 goes well, NASA and SpaceX will lock it in for another safety test -- the "in-flight abort test." That will ensure the systems used in an emergency situation, where the capsule might need to be jettisoned away from the rocket, are all in working order. Once NASA and SpaceX are happy, then it's time for the real deal: sending astronauts up on a Crew Dragon scheduled to launch in mid-2019. 

First published Feb. 27, 3:49 p.m. PT
Update, March 1, 3 a.m. PT: Adds extra information about launch, Ripley.
Update, March 1, 10:19 a.m. PT: Adds weather conditions as of Friday. 
Update, March 3, 01:48 a.m. PT: Adds information to watch docking with ISS.