In a stunning overnight launch, SpaceX successfully launched their Dragon Crew Demo craft to the International Space Station. Sitting atop a Falcon 9 rocket, the unmanned spacecraft contained “Ripley” and a plush Earth toy from Celestial Buddies.
Ripley is an anthropomorphic test device in a space suit, which SpaceX officials prefer to call a “smarty” rather than a “dummy”. Ripley is sitting in one of the four seats inside the Crew Dragon. SpaceX has named the mannequin “Ripley” after Sigourney Weaver’s character in the “Alien” films. According to SpaceX, Ripley is fitted with sensors around its head, neck and spine to gather data on the environments astronauts will experience when they ride the Crew Dragon.
The Dragon is expected to dock with the International Space Station in about 24 hours; after 5 days at the ISS, it will return to Earth, splashing down in the Atlantic east of Florida.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine released a statement after the historic launch: “Today’s successful launch marks a new chapter in American excellence, getting us closer to once again flying American Astronauts on American rockets from American soil. I proudly congratulate the SpaceX and NASA teams for this major milestone in our nation’s space history. This first launch of a space system designed for humans built and operated by a commercial company through a public-private partnership is a revolutionary step on our path to get humans to the Moon, Mars, and Beyond.”