Can Elon Musk’s SpaceX successfully carry people into space? That question should get a partial answer within the next 24-hours, thanks to a test named ‘Demo-1’.
In the early hours of Saturday morning, SpaceX will attempt a demonstration mission for Crew Dragon, a version of its spacecraft that’s been fitted out to carry people rather than just cargo. If the test is successful, SpaceX says, that will demonstrate its ability to safely fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS.)
That would be a really big deal for the U.S., as NASA retired its shuttles in 2011 and has since relied on the Russians to provide ISS ferrying services. Problem is, the American space agency doesn’t have any more seats on Russia’s Soyuz capsules booked after November this year.
The launch at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is scheduled for 2:48 a.m. EST, with a backup window available next Tuesday at 1:38 a.m. EST.
There won’t be any people on board this test, however: instead, the capsule will be home to a dummy called Ripley wearing a spacesuit and a bunch of data-collecting sensors, plus 400 lbs of supplies for the space station. The older Dragon capsules have successfully completed 16 ISS missions.
Musk tweeted an image of Ripley on Friday. The name evokes Ellen Ripley from Alien—a previous dummy, the David-Bowie-referencing Starman, got tossed out into space in a Tesla Roadster just over a year ago.
And here’s the live video to watch if you’re up early tomorrow: