In Brief

SpaceX Crew Dragon: passenger spacecraft to blast off to ISS

Nasa approves mission but Russian space station operators express concerns ahead of Saturday’s launch

SpaceX is preparing to send its Crew Dragon passenger spacecraft on a test voyage to the International Space Station (ISS) on Saturday, after getting the go-ahead from Nasa.

The Elon Musk-backed firm will put a “spacesuit-clad crash test dummy” on board before launching the Crew Dragon capsule from Nasa’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, The Independent reports. 

The mannequin’s spacesuit will be fitted with an “array of sensors” to collect “key data” on conditions inside the capsule, to help iron out any issues before the first human passengers blast off into orbit, the news site says. 

The mission will be the first US launch since 2011 of a spacecraft built to carry humans.  

However, Russian operators of the ISS have “expressed concern” over the computer systems on the Crew Dragon, reports Sky News. The capsule’s docking mechanism reportedly lacks a back-up system that could be employed if main one fails.

A Nasa spokesperson said the US space agency believed these concerns would be dismissed once the SpaceX system has been fully explained to its ISS Russian partners.

This weekend’s launch comes weeks after that of the Falcon 9 rocket, the ship that will transport the Crew Dragon to the space station. 

If the latest mission is also deemed a success, SpaceX will proceed to test the capsule’s “emergency abort” system, designed to save the crew in the event of an emergency, says Digital Trends

No date has been set for the first human occupied voyage, but Musk has hinted that the mission could take place as early as this summer.

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