Early Saturday morning, SpaceX will launch its new Crew Dragon spacecraft for the very first time — a capsule that’s designed to take NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station. No passengers will be on board this particular flight, but the mission, called DM-1, is still a critical one that will pave the way for future crewed missions.
This mission is the spaceflight equivalent of a tech rehearsal — testing out all the major steps that the capsule will need to perform to get people to the ISS and back safely. The capsule will launch on top of one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets, which will then attempt to land on a SpaceX drone ship in the ocean. About a day later, the Crew Dragon will dock with the International Space Station. And a few days after that, it will leave the ISS and re-enter Earth’s atmosphere, eventually using parachutes to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean.
Since the Crew Dragon is meant to dock with the ISS, the station’s position in orbit dictates when the Falcon 9 can launch. Cruelly, this means that the rocket is scheduled to take off from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida at 2:49AM ET. But if you want to wake up early on Saturday (or stay up from the night before), there will be plenty of ways to watch this launch live.
NASA will begin streaming coverage of the launch at 2AM ET on its NASA TV channel. SpaceX will begin its live coverage around 50 minutes before takeoff. And that should be a good show, similar to the livestream that SpaceX aired during the Falcon Heavy launch last year. A dummy named Ripley, equipped with multiple sensors to collect data, will sit inside the Crew Dragon, suited up in a custom SpaceX suit. Cameras will show Ripley’s ride inside the capsule, according to SpaceX’s Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of build and flight reliability. And SpaceX CEO Elon Musk mentioned that viewers would be able to see from Ripley’s point of view, too. Then, for anyone still awake post-launch, NASA will air a press conference at around 4AM ET.
If for some reason SpaceX has to delay the mission, the company has backup launch dates on March 5th, 8th and 9th. But right now, the weather seems like it will cooperate for Saturday’s launch, with an 80 percent chance of good conditions for flight.
Update March 1st, 2:05PM ET: This article was updated with a new start time for SpaceX’s livestream.