SpaceX: Elon Musk Shares Video of NASA Getting to Grips With Crew Dragon
NASA is getting its head around SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, the capsule set to ferry astronauts from Earth to the International Space Station and back again. The initiative is set to be one of the first where American astronauts are sent into space with a commercial spacecraft, and it will play a pivotal role in plugging the gaps in NASA’s space station efforts. The video, shared by CEO Elon Musk, shows astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley trying out the system.
The company is working to start its first test flights sometime next year, with Musk previously suggesting an April 2019 date as a potential candidate. SpaceX is developing its solution at the same time as Boeing, which is working on the CST-100 Starliner with similar goals. Both efforts are critical to keeping NASA’s space experiments going. The agency currently uses Russia’s Soyuz rockets to send crew into space, but these seats are reaching prices of around $81 million each.
NASA’s current arrangement stumbled earlier this year, when a Soyuz rocket taking off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on October 11 had to make an emergency landing, 119 seconds after liftoff, due to a deformation in a sensor part. Astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin, who were hoping to reach the space station, left the rocket unharmed.
The SpaceX capsule is part of its more ambitious efforts to send humans around the moon and to Mars. The company is currently building the BFR, a giant new rocket designed with reusability in mind, scheduled to send Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa with a group of artists around the moon in 2023. An unmanned mission to Mars using two BFR could take place as early as 2022, preceding a further two unmanned rockets and two manned rockets in a mission scheduled for 2024. The company’s experience with the Crew Dragon will help bring these ideas to life.
Soyuz launches are set to resume after the issue, with a launch scheduled for December 3 with three crewmembers following an unmanned launch on November 16. Hague and Ovchinin are not scheduled for the manned launch.
NASA is looking ahead to the future, and has already outlined the first set of astronauts that will ride on these commercial rockets.