NASA and SpaceX celebrated the successful launch Saturday of a new astronaut capsule on a week-long round trip to the International Space Station - a key step towards resuming manned space flights from U.S. soil after an eight-year break. But the Dragon capsule won't carry humans, rather a test dummy-named Ripley after the tough heroine in the "Alien" films-in the same white SpaceX spacesuit that astronauts will wear.
NASA officials initially said that their Russian colleagues had concerns related to the U.S. agency's lack of a backup computer system to prevent Crew Dragon from colliding with the ISS if the vehicle goes dead.
The human-sized dummy is covered head to toe in sensors that will tell SpaceX engineers about what the experience travelling to and from the ISS will be like for human astronauts.
The flight, if successful, will be the first time a spaceship capable of carrying people that is commercially built and operated will travel to the International Space Station.
This article was originally published by Futurism.
Routine missions to the space station could start later this year.
I guarantee everything will not work exactly right and that's cool.
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Early on Friday, Musk, who is also chief executive officer of electric carmaker Tesla Inc, tweeted a photo of the inside of Crew Dragon capsule with a mannequin nicknamed Ripley strapped inside.
"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. From there, the astronauts on board the space station will take over the receiving process.
Acknowledging that there may be delays with the SpaceX and Boeing crew capsules, NASA has purchased two more future seats aboard the Soyuz rockets, one in 2019 and one in 2020, Space News reports.
Ketcham predicted that in the wake of SpaceX and Boeing's partnerships with NASA, the level of competition between other private companies for a spot in the space sector will depend on the demand presented by space stations.
NASA plans to livestream the SpaceX Crew Dragon launch as it happens through its NASA TV website; the live video can be accessed here and the network's broadcast schedule can be viewed here.
Whichever company delivers astronauts first wins a small USA flag left at the station by the last shuttle crew in 2011. Those precautions include additional thrusters in case they need to abort after launch but before reaching orbit, and an extra parachute (four instead of the usual three) for landing. Hurley will ride the Dragon and Ferguson the Starliner.