SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft that will deliver astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station has arrived at Cape Canaveral for launch preparations. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX’s next Crew Dragon capsule — delivered to Cape Canaveral this week from a California factory — will be the first U.S. spacecraft to carry crews into orbit since 2011, NASA confirmed Friday. The Crew Dragon will lift off as soon as this spring with veteran NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on a test flight to the International Space Station.

The human-rated spaceship arrived at a test and processing facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Thursday following a cross-country trip from SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

SpaceX tweeted a photo of the crew capsule Friday, showing ground teams wearing lab coats and hair nets rolling the capsule into position on a wheeled trolley soon after arriving on Florida’s Space Coast.

In a statement, NASA said the Crew Dragon will be the first spacecraft to launch astronauts from U.S. soil since 2011, when the space shuttle was retired.

“The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft for the first crew launch from American soil since 2011, has arrived at the launch site,” NASA said in a statement. “NASA and SpaceX are preparing for the agency’s first flight test with astronauts to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.”

In 2014, NASA tapped Boeing and SpaceX with contracts valued at $4.2 billion and $2.6 billion, respectively, to develop, test and fly commercial human-rated spacecraft designed to ferry astronauts to and from the space station.

NASA’s announcement Friday that SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft will be the first vehicle to fly with astronauts was not a surprise. SpaceX was widely expected in recent months to be ready to fly astronauts before Boeing.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft will lift off on top of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, the same departure point as the Apollo 11 moon landing mission, and the first and last space shuttle flights.

Hurley, a pilot on two space shuttle missions, will serve as vehicle commander on the Crew Dragon test flight, known as Demo-2. Behnken, also a veteran of two shuttle flights, will be the vehicle pilot.

NASA officials are considering launch dates in May for the Demo-2 miss

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