Following a series of delays and setbacks, SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft is finally set for proper lift-off, with NASA today announcing it is targeting March 2 for the spacecraft's maiden voyage into orbit. Though designed to carry astronauts into space, the flight will be the first in a series of unpiloted tests to take place this year to verify the safety of the vehicle.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft is built from the same blueprint as SpaceX's Dragon capsule, which has been shuttling supplies to the International Space Station since 2012. The cabin, however, is optimized for comfortable human travel rather than cargo, featuring carbon fiber seating finished in Alcantara, climate control and four windows for panoramic views.

Back in early January we got a glimpse of the Crew Dragon perched on the pad in Florida atop a Falcon 9 rocket, with SpaceX seemingly preparing the booster-capsule combo for lift-off. NASA has now confirmed it is targeting a 2:48 am lift off on March 2 from its Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

It is expected to reach preliminary orbit ten minutes after launch and dock with the International Space Station around 24 hours later, where it will remain attached for five days. Here it will provide the crew with around 400 lb (180 kg) of fresh supplies, and then carry research samples back to Earth when it departs on March 8.

Called Demo-1, the flight is part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, a venture to source astronaut-carrying spacecraft from the private sector, with contracts in place for both SpaceX and Boeing. If Demo-1 goes to plan, SpaceX hopes to follow it up with unmanned abort tests and then manned tests later in the year.

Source: NASA

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