SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, is moving quickly toward one of the most important launches in its 17-year existence: the first launch of Crew Dragon, a spaceship that Elon Musk’s aerospace company designed to fly NASA astronauts into orbit.
Crew Dragon is part of NASA’s roughly R112 billion Commercial Crew Program, which was created to restore the agency’s ability to launch people to the International Space Station. (NASA retired its space shuttle program in July 2011, and has been sending astronauts on Russian Soyuz spacecraft since then.)
For this experimental mission, called Demo-1, SpaceX won’t launch any of NASA’s finest to the International Space Station. Instead, it will send 181 kilogrammes of cargo and a crash-test dummy wearing a spacesuit.
Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX’s vice president for build and flight reliability, revealed during a press briefing on Thursday that the dummy will have a female body and spacesuit.
“It has lots of sensors. We call it a smarty, and her name is Ripley,” Koenigsmann said. The name is an homage to Ellen Ripley, the lead character in the film “Alien” played by Sigourney Weaver.