SpaceX debuts new crew capsule in crucial test flight

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A mock up of the Crew Dragon spacecraft is displayed during a media tour of SpaceX headquarters and rocket factory on August 13, 2018 in Hawthorne, California. - SpaceX plans to use the spaceship Crew Dragon, a passenger version of the robotic Dragon cargo ship, to carry NASA astronauts to the International Space Station in 2019. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX is closing in on human spaceflight with this weekend’s debut of a new capsule designed for astronauts.

The six-day test flight will be real in every regard, beginning with a Florida liftoff Saturday and a docking the next day with the International Space Station.

But the Dragon capsule won’t carry humans, rather a test dummy in the same white SpaceX spacesuit that astronauts will wear.

NASA doesn’t expect this crucial shakedown cruise to go perfectly. But the lessons learned should improve safety when two NASA astronauts strap into a Dragon as early as July.

Boeing is also in the race to end NASA’s eight-year drought of launching U.S. astronauts on U.S. rockets from U.S. soil.

NASA is providing billions to the companies to build and operate these new systems.

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