Elon Musk’s SpaceX company has made rocket launches essential viewing, with a regular stream of dramatic successes and unfortunate failures. If you’ve been waiting to hear when the next must-watch SpaceX event will happen, then we have good news for you: the Crew Dragon capsule will be sent on its maiden test flight on January 7, 2019.
The Crew Dragon capsule has been in the works for several years, with the aim of eventually transporting astronauts to locations such as the International Space Station (ISS). The capsule includes seven seats for the crew to strap themselves safely into, and four windows to allow them to appreciate the incredible view from space.
The first flight of the Crew Dragon will be called the Demo-1, or DM-1 for short, and will be sent hurtling into the atmosphere atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The launch will take place from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, most famous for being the same launching site of the Apollo 11 mission that carried the first astronauts to the moon.
SpaceX have been in a race against rivals Boeing to launch the first privately owned crewed space mission. Boeing are working on their CST-100 Starliner commercial crew transportation craft with the aim for it to pull double duty: both shuttling NASA astronauts to the ISS and taking paying customers on low-Earth orbit trips to experience space firsthand. But Boeing’s craft isn’t ready for testing just yet — their first unmanned test flight is planned for March 2019.
Eventually, both SpaceX and Boeing will move onto manned test flights once the unmanned tests have been completed successfully. Both providers must demonstrate that their crafts are safe and functional before crew will be allowed to participate in the test flights. These manned flights are estimated to happen next year too: SpaceX plans to send our their manned test flight in June 2019 and Boeing plans to perform their test in August 2019.
The full test flight planning dates are below, as per NASA: