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SpaceX Crewed Dragon Spacecraft Nearing First Orbital Test Flight

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The Crew Dragon on top of the Falcon 9 rocket at Kennedy Space Center. Due to the government shutdown, the scheduled uncrewed test flight of SpaceX's Crew Dragon spaceship this month might be delayed. CEO Elon Musk tweeted that the launch will take place next month.   ( SpaceX | Twitter )

SpaceX moves its Crew Dragon spacecraft to NASA's historic Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center ahead of its first unmanned orbital test flight.

On Thursday, Jan. 3, the private spaceflight company released photos of the spaceship on top of its rocket, the Falcon 9. A new walkway for astronauts in sleek black and white also made its debut weeks before launch.

NASA's Kennedy Space Center Launch Pad 39A is where the last space shuttle launched eight years ago.

January Test Launch Moved

The Crew Dragon's first test flight is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 17, but it might be delayed because of the ongoing partial government shutdown in the United States. SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk seemed to confirm the delay on Twitter, stating that the test flight will take place in a month.

Neither SpaceX nor NASA has announced a schedule change as of this writing.

About SpaceX's Crew Dragon

The Crew Dragon is the crewed version of SpaceX's robotic Dragon cargo ships that have been carrying out resupply missions for NASA since 2012. The spaceship is designed to carry up to seven astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

The upcoming uncrewed orbital test flight, called Demo-1, is intended to test the spaceship's capabilities. If successful, the Crew Dragon will move on to a crewed test flight later this year, with NASA astronaut Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley onboard.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon was developed as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program which aims to end the space agency's dependence on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft to transport astronauts to the ISS.

Spaceflight giant Boeing was also contracted to ferry personnel to low-orbit. Its CST-100 Starliner is scheduled to make its first uncrewed test flight in March and then a crewed test flight in August.

Following the test flights, NASA will review performance data and resolve issues before giving either company the green light to continue to operational missions. If all goes well, the space agency anticipates the first crewed mission to take place by summer this year.

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