After a January 2019 launch date suffered delays, SpaceX is hoping to launch their Demonstration 1 (Demo-1) Crew Dragon test flight in February. The much anticipated first flight of the upgraded SpaceX spacecraft is expected to be the last major milestone before a crewed commercial mission.
On January 20, many outlets began to report that the Demo-1 Crew Dragon mission would be launched on February 9. However, ISS planning notes have since put the early February launch date in doubt. Despite this, the launch is expected to only slip into the second half of the month with analysts suggesting a possible February 16 launch date.
Despite the launch delays, it appears that SpaceX will perform a static fire test of the DM-1 Block 5 Falcon 9 (B1051.1) on January 23. The rocket was rolled out to the historic Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center ahead of tomorrow’s test this morning. The static fire test involves a full rehearsal of propellant loads and the ignition of all nine Merlin 1D engines.
The Demo-1 flight will be the upgraded Crew Dragon spacecraft’s first trip into space. As a result, the launch will be uncrewed and used to verify the spacecraft’s performance in operating conditions.
Following a successful Demo-1 test, SpaceX will perform a mandated in-flight abort test. The spacecraft’s abort systems have previously successfully been tested during a launch pad abort test in May 2015. The in-flight test is, as a result, expected to go smoothly.
Once both the Demo-1 test flight and the in-flight abort test have successfully been completed, NASA will complete a final review of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Crew Dragon spacecraft. This process may require SpaceX to complete additional demonstration missions. However, if approval is awarded, SpaceX hopes to launch their first crewed mission before the end of 2019.