New NASA Mission To Study Space Weather From International Space Station

This image courtesy of SpaceX and obtained from NASA shows the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft rolled out to Launch Complex 39A at NASA Kennedy Space

New NASA Mission To Study Space Weather From International Space Station

SpaceX's Crew Dragon launch is set for 2:49 a.m. Saturday EST (11:49 p.m. Friday PST) from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The only passenger is a life-size test dummy, named Ripley from the Alien movies.

If the rest of the SpaceX mission goes as planned, two astronauts, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, could be flying aboard the Crew Dragon as early as July, NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce reported.

NASA TV is the U.S. space agency's around-the-clock educational broadcast, which streams NASA rocket launches among other segments. NASA selected SpaceX and Boeing to design and build crew-carrying spacecraft to shepherd astronauts to and from the space station - replacements for the Space Shuttle, which NASA retired in 2011. It will not be tested until April, in a mission similar to SpaceX's.

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A SpaceX rocket with an unmanned crew capsule blasted off on Saturday for the International Space Station, in a key milestone for Elon Musk's space company and NASA's long-delayed goal to resume human spaceflight from USA soil later this year.

William Gerstenmaier, the associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA, said at a news conference last week that the launch "is an absolutely critical first step". Even though no one will be riding this rocket, Elon Musk's company has everything riding on the success of this mission.

NASA is anxious for reliable transit to and from the space station.

The Crew Dragon features solar arrays affixed to the side of the spacecraft's trunk, a launch escape system that will allow crew members to escape an anomaly at any point during flight, a large hatch and windows and a redesigned outer mold line to enhance crew comfort.

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SpaceX's Crew Dragon - the first crew-capable spacecraft the company has ever produced - is about to be tested in a big way.

In 2008, the agency first awarded $1.6 billion to Hawthorne-based SpaceX for 12 resupply flights and $1.9 billion for eight flights to Orbital ATK, which was acquired by Northrop Grumman Corp. past year. 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.

NASA's embrace of commercial firms for closer-to-home missions is indicative of what's happened in other industries, analysts said.

Dragon will dock in the ISS 27 hours after launching where it will spend five days before re-entering Earth's atmosphere and splashing into the Atlantic ocean off the coast of Florida.

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A live stream of the launch will be available on both NASA's and SpaceX's YouTube channels. Hurley will ride the Dragon and Ferguson the Starliner.

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