SpaceX: Elon Musk Shares Image of ‘Ripley’ Ready to Launch in Crew Dragon
SpaceX is about to embark on one of its biggest launches ever. On Friday, CEO Elon Musk shared an image of the interior of the Crew Dragon, ready to go with a special passenger on board. Nestled in the passenger seat of the company’s human-carrying capsule is a dummy fitted with a spacesuit, a pioneer that Musk has named “Ripley.”
The launch, scheduled to take place Saturday, will kickstart a new era of space exploration. It’s set to mark the first time that a human-carrying capsule built by a commercial firm has flown to the International Space Station. “Ripley,” officially known as an anthropomorphic test dummy or ATD, will help engineers understand how the craft holds up and whether it’s ready for human passengers. Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of build and flight reliability at SpaceX, explained to reporters last week that the dummy will “measure the responses on the human body, obviously, and measure the environment. We want to make sure that everything is perfect for, you know, the safety of the astronauts.”
The launch is set to enable NASA to send humans into space from American soil. Ever since the agency axed its shuttle program in 2011, astronauts have had to use Russia’s Soyuz rockets, taking off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. SpaceX is working alongside Boeing, which is developing the CST-100 Starliner. Together, the pair’s capsules will enable NASA to bring launches back a little closer to home.
It’s not the first time SpaceX has debuted its space suit. In February 2018, Musk’s team launched his red Tesla Roadster into space on the first test flight of the Falcon Heavy. The “Starman” dummy in the driver’s seat looked out as it continues its trajectory around the solar system with David Bowie’s “Life in Space” playing on the sound system and a “Don’t Panic” message on the dashboard. Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ space company, opted for a rather more punny name for their test dummy, opting for “Mannequin Skywalker.”
SpaceX’s first flight is scheduled for Saturday at 2:49 a.m. Eastern time. It will take off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. The capsule, packed with 400 pounds of cargo alongside “Ripley,” will be sent into space on board a Falcon 9 rocket, the same rocket design used to send satellites into space. The first launch with humans in the mix is set for the summer.
While the launch paves the way for sending humans to and from the International Space Station, the most impressive aspects of SpaceX’s plan may be still to come. The company is currently developing the Starship to send humans to Mars.