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SpaceX Dragon Capsule Arrives In Florida Ahead Of Crewed Launch From Kennedy Space Center

SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule arrives at Cape Canaveral ahead of DM-2. Photo: SpaceX
SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule arrives at Cape Canaveral ahead of DM-2. Photo: SpaceX

The space capsule that will likely carry the first astronauts to the International Space Station from the U.S. since 2011 has arrived in Florida ahead of a planned flight as early as this spring.

NASA is working with private companies SpaceX and Boeing to launch astronauts to the station. Since the retirement of the Space Shuttle program, NASA has relied solely on the Russian space agency Roscosmos for rides to the station on its Soyuz capsule.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule will launch NASA astronauts Bob Behnkin and Doug Hurley on a crewed test mission to the station. SpaceX successfully completed an uncrewed mission to the station in March. The company completed a critical in-flight safety test of the capsule abort system earlier this year -- paving the way for the crewed flight.

The capsule set for the human launch is now at a SpaceX processing facility on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station after departing from the company's manufacturing facility in Hawthorne, California. SpaceX founder and lead designer Elon Musk said the launch atop a Falcon 9 rocket could happen in the second quarter of 2020.

Meanwhile, Boeing's uncrewed test flight of its Starliner capsule late last year failed to reach its intended orbit due to a software error -- preventing it from docking with the station. The mission was cut short, but the capsule returned safely to Earth.

A Boeing and NASA investigation team uncovered issues with the company's software and safety culture, calling for an audit of the nearly one-million lines of code that power Starliner's systems.

It's unclear how long that will take. NASA will decide if Boeing needs to redo the uncrewed flight before giving the go-ahead for a crewed test mission with NASA Astronauts Nicole Mann, Mike Finke and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson. The move all but puts SpaceX in the lead to return human launches to the U.S.

Brendan Byrne is Central Florida Public Media's Assistant News Director, managing the day-to-day operations of the newsroom, editing daily news stories, and managing the organization's internship program. Byrne also hosts Central Florida Public Media's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration, and the weekly news roundup podcast "The Wrap."