Russian Mission Control Center Briefs ISS on Crew Dragon Docking

Joel Kowsky  NASA via AP

Once the Dragon capsule is launched into space and heading for the space station, updates from NASA and SpaceX's social feeds will keep us looped in on how the rest of the mission goes.

The test flight will last six days, and be real in every way - liftoff from Florida on Saturday, docking to the International Space Station (ISS) the following day.

The Boeing and SpaceX launch systems are aimed at ending US reliance on Russian rockets for rides to the $100 billion orbital research laboratory, which flies about 250 miles (402 km) above Earth, at about $80 million per ticket. I guarantee you everything will not work exactly right.

Early on Friday, Musk, who is also chief executive officer of electric carmaker Tesla Inc, tweeted a photo of the inside of Crew Dragon capsule with a mannequin nicknamed Ripley strapped inside.

The Elon Musk-led company plans to launch its new Crew Dragon atop a Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center's launch complex 39A.

The launch was expected to be an uncrewed demo of the new capsule to test it before NASA and SpaceX send actual astronauts up to space in the craft.

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SpaceX's 16-foot-tall (4.88-meter-) Crew Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket was set for lift off from Florida's Kennedy Space Center at 2:49 a.m. (1049 GMT) local time.

Saturday's eagerly-anticipated launch is the first under NASA's Commercial Crew Program. "Human spaceflight is a core value of business of SpaceX". Ripley is similar to Starman, which blasted off past year in the driver's seat of Musk's red Tesla convertible, on a test launch of the company's bigger Falcon Heavy rocket.

According to the latest update from the meteorologists at the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing, there is an 80 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for Saturday morning's launch window.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon - the first crew-capable spacecraft the company has ever produced - is about to be tested in a big way. The three space station astronauts will enter the Dragon, unload the fresh supplies on board and then fill it with science samples and old equipment. "When we first started, this program was just PowerPoint charts, and now we've got a vehicle out on the pad".

The crew capsule is based on the ISS cargo freighter but incorporates life-support systems and more powerful thrusters to push the vessel to safety if something goes wrong with the rocket.

If all goes well, SpaceX's Crew Dragon could be the first American spacecraft to ferry astronauts to space from US soil since the last Space Shuttle mission in 2011 - and Ripley is getting a first taste of what that'll feel like. Hurley will ride the Dragon and Ferguson the Starliner.

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