SpaceX readies test dummy for milestone launch

SpaceX Crew Dragon
An artist’s conception shows a Crew Dragon docking with the International Space Station. (SpaceX / NASA Illustration)

NASA gave the all-clear today for the first test flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spaceship to the International Space Station in a week, setting the stage for crewed missions later this year.

There won’t be any crew aboard this first Crew Dragon, also known as the Dragon 2, but there will be an instrument-laden, spacesuit-wearing mannequin sitting in one of the seats, to provide data about the environment that astronauts will experience.

“Should I say ‘dummy,’ is that the right word?” Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX’s vice president of mission assurance, asked during a briefing for reporters at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“ATD, ATD,” said Kathy Lueders, program manager for NASA’s commercial crew program. “We prefer to not call them dummies.” (For the record, ATD stands for Anthropomorphic Test Device or Anthropomorphic Test Dummy.)

There’ll also be a load of cargo to be sent up to the station from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, at 2:48 a.m. ET March 2 (11:48 p.m. PT March 1). Lueders said the total mass would be “pretty close” to what the Dragon 2 will carry when astronauts climb aboard.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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