Another day, another SpaceX launch.
This time, when the Falcon 9 lifts off from Kennedy Space Center, it will carry the Crew Dragon and a sole astronaut to the International Space Station. While astronauts are normally an elite and highly intelligent group, this one is a real dummy. No, really: It’s a sensor-equipped dummy (or “smartie,” as SpaceX prefers to call it) named Ripley, in an homage to Sigourney Weaver’s character from the Alien movies, when it truly should have been named Bishop after the on-board android. Naming mistakes aside, the dummy’s mission will be to gather data on what the flight experience will be like for an actual human astronaut, who will hopefully hop a flight on SpaceX later this year.
The flight, officially known as Demo Mission-1 (or DM-1), is scheduled for liftoff at 2:49 a.m. ET on March 2, with a backup launch slot reserved 72 hours later on March 5. When the launch does happen, 11 minutes after takeoff, the Dragon crew module will separate from the second stage and head out on its own.
If all goes as planned, on Sunday, the module will autonomously dock with the International Space Station for the first time. From there, the astronauts on board the space station will take over the receiving process. Two hours and 45 minutes after docking, the hatch will open and the astronauts can step aboard the capsule. You can take a sneak peek here:
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 1, 2019
To gather all the necessary intel to put humans aboard the futuristic astronaut taxi, the capsule is filled with data-reading instruments and cutting-edge sensors, or as NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager Kathy Lueders put it, “We instrumented the crap out of this vehicle.” While the final version will have a few additional features and crew interfaces, for the most part, it will look the same when astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley (who are no dummies) hop onboard Dragon for DM-2 in July.
Wake up early or stay up late and watch below: