SpaceX Crew Dragon: Elon Musk Shares Incredible Image of Astronaut Walkway
SpaceX is about to embark on a new era of space travel. On Sunday, CEO Elon Musk shared an image of the company’s Crew Dragon capsule on top of a Falcon 9 rocket, connected up to a walkway for astronauts. The setup could be the first time in American history that astronauts have entered space on board a commercial craft.
The image comes as SpaceX gears up to complete its first unmanned tests of the Crew Dragon, which Musk claims are “about a month away” and NASA lists on its website as taking place as early as January 17. From there, the team will complete an in-flight abort test to demonstrate the capsule’s emergency capabilities, before the first astronauts lift off in a test flight around June. SpaceX is not the only player though: Boeing is set to complete an uncrewed orbital flight test of its CST-100 in March, before completing a pad abort test and hosting a crewed flight test in August.
Boeing and SpaceX are expected to send American astronauts to and from the International Space Station. This was a task originally performed by NASA, until the agency ended the shuttle program in 2011. It’s since used Russian Soyuz rockets to complete the trips, but the contract is set to expire in April. The new arrangement would bring these flights back to the United States while saving on the $81 million NASA spends on each Soyuz seat.
While SpaceX has missed its deadlines before, originally planning to fly the Crew Dragon in late 2017, there’s good reason to believe it will follow through this time. William Ostrove, aerospace and defense analyst for Forecast International, told Inverse last month that “the Crew Dragon has suffered from multiple delays, but it seems like a test flight is finally imminent…the spacecraft recently arrived at Kennedy Space Center to be prepped for a January launch, so it’s likely that a launch will occur early in 2019.”
Time will tell whether SpaceX flies on January 17. If all goes to schedule, NASA has suggested the first operational mission could take place as early as August, followed by a second in December.
Related video: Take a Look Inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon