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NASA, SpaceX prepare to test new astronaut capsule

US Space Flight, NASA And SpaceX Are Preparing To Test A New Space Capsule For Astronauts Eight Years After The Last Manned Mission-- Although For Now, The Only Occupant Will Be A Dummy Named Ripley

News Nation Bureau | Edited By : Fayiq Wani | Updated on: 03 Mar 2019, 08:23:47 AM
NASA plans to put two astronauts on board SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule by the end of the year (Photo: Twitter)

New Delhi:

US space flight, NASA and SpaceX are preparing to test a new space capsule for astronauts eight years after the last manned mission-- although for now, the only occupant will be a dummy named Ripley. After the shuttle programme was shuttered in 2011 after a 30-year run, NASA began outsourcing the logistics of its space missions. The new capsule will blast off on board a rocket built by SpaceX -- the space company of billionaire Elon Musk -- at 0249 (0749 GMT) on Saturday from the Kennedy Space Centre at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Its destination is the International Space Station, which it is scheduled to reach by Sunday, with a return to Earth next Friday.

NASA plans to put two astronauts on board SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule by the end of the year. The flight aims to test the vessel's reliability and safety in real-life conditions.

"It's been a long eight years," said Bob Cabana, the Kennedy Space Center's director and a former astronaut. "It's exciting to see a crewed vehicle, the SpaceX Dragon, up there on a Falcon 9 on pad 39A," said Cabana, who witnessed the last space shuttle flight return to Cape Canaveral on July 21, 2011.

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It pays Russia to get its people up to the orbiting research facility at a cost of USD 82 million a head, for a round trip.

In 2014, the US space agency awarded contracts to SpaceX and Boeing for them to take over this task.

But the programme has suffered delays as safety requirements are much more stringent for manned flights than for unmanned missions to deploy satellites.

The sky over the launch site was clear Friday, with meteorologists saying there was an 80 per cent chance of conditions being favourable overnight.

"When you are here, right, there is a pride in the country. It's different," said Mark Geyer, director of the Johnson Space Centre, where US astronauts are based. "There is a pride in what the United States and its teams can accomplish."

Boeing also received a contract in 2014 to develop a space vessel, the Starliner. It will not be tested until April, in a mission similar to SpaceX's.

NASA did not want to rely on just one single vehicle, in case of accidents.

Planning has been delayed by around three years, with the first manned SpaceX flight still pencilled in for July, though officials frequently refer to the end of 2019 as a more realistic deadline.

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First Published : 03 Mar 2019, 08:20:48 AM