Crew from aborted Soyuz capsule set for ISS mission next week

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SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon crew capsule are scheduled to lift off from Florida's Kennedy Space Center at 02:49 EST Saturday (07:49 GMT).

The Demo-1 mission marks the first flight of the new and improved Dragon 2 spacecraft, which is longer and more massive than its Dragon 1 predecessor.

This photo provided by SpaceX shows a life-size test dummy along with a toy that is floating in the Dragon capsule as the capsule made orbit on Saturday, March 2, 2019.

There was, however, no crew aboard the spacecraft, just a test dummy named Ripley, in a nod to the lead character in the Alien movies.

Ripley and the capsule are rigged with sensors to measure noise, vibration and stresses and monitor the life-support, propulsion and other critical systems.

"SpaceX's Crew Dragon, created to transport astronauts to the International Space Station from USA soil, is flying on its own in orbit following an on-time launch". But the programme has suffered delays as safety requirements are much more stringent for manned flights than for unmanned missions to deploy satellites.

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The crew also took selfies and videos, including a few shots with Crew Dragon's second passenger, a small, stuffed Earth with limbs and a perplexed facial expression that bounced about the capsule in microgravity.

The procedure is a step up for SpaceX because the cargo ships it normally sends to the lab have to be grappled by a robotic arm and pulled into a berthing position. During a crewed mission, astronauts aboard the spacecraft will have the capability to intervene and fly the vehicle manually, if needed.

Crew Dragon is also carrying 400 pounds of supplies and equipment, which will be unloaded once the module autonomously docks at the space station.

"This is a critically important event in American history", the head of the United States space agency, Jim Bridenstine, told reporters on Friday, with the rocket and capsule visible behind him on the legendary launch pad where the Apollo missions to the Moon began. TV cameras on Dragon as well as the station provided stunning views of one another throughout the rendezvous.

Although the contact appeared slow, the ISS and the capsule were moving at a speed of over 27,000 kilometers per hour in orbit around the Earth. The capsule will remain at the ISS for another five days.

A single action item concerning Dragon's approach to the station was identified during the Flight Readiness Review (FRR) conducted before launch. "We've got to dock to the space station and come back".

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