SpaceX is preparing to conduct their first manned mission aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft. The mission is called Demo-2, will consist of launching Dragon atop a Falcon 9 rocket with NASA Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken aboard towards a journey to the International Space Station (ISS), flight could take place sometime around May this year. The director of Johnson Space Center, Mark Geyer, said that NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and the agency's Chief of Human Spaceflight Doug Loverro, have May 7th as a target date to launch SpaceX's first crewed mission to the orbiting laboratory, he said, "That's the target the two programs have agreed is reasonable, but we're still confirming with Jim and Doug really when we think we're going to launch." It is likely the Crew Dragon mission could launch sometime between April through June this year. SpaceX's first manned flight aboard Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft could take place as soon as May 7th. Meanwhile, the rocket company is doing final preparations on the spacecraft, they shared a shared a video of the craft undergoing testing, stating:
"The Crew Dragon spacecraft that will fly NASA astronauts Astronaut Bob Behnken and Astronaut Doug Hurley to and from the Space Station undergoing electromagnetic interference testing."
The same spacecraft that will be utilized during SpaceX's first crewed mission is currently inside an anechoic chamber, these are sound-absorbing chambers described as the quietest places on Earth, simulate silence and environment found in space. Crew Dragon is inside the chamber undergoing electromagnetic interference testing, a vital process to make sure a spacecraft's electrical systems will work properly in order certify the spacecraft is ready for flight.
Last year, SpaceX's Dragon technology demonstrated during Demo-1, the first demonstration mission to space without astronauts on board, that it could successfully perform a flight the ISS station. It became the first American spacecraft in history to autonomously dock with the station's robotic arm. That is a huge accomplishment for SpaceX because it showed it could successfully transport astronauts to the space station during the upcoming Demo-2 mission. In January, SpaceX conducted their last major test which demonstrated the spacecrafts capability to save astronauts lives with its launch escape system. Loverro said NASA is still in the process of completing their analysis of data from Dragon's successful In-Flight Abort test then SpaceX still needs to complete paperwork before the manned mission could take place, "Even though it sounds mundane, there is a load of paper that has to be verified, and signed off, and checked to make sure we've got everything closed out," he told ArsTechnica reporters. "It is probably one of the longest things in the tent to go ahead and do. It's underappreciated but critically important. You've got to make sure you've done everything you need to do along the way." NASA and SpaceX are also in discussion about performing additional parachute tests of the craft in the coming weeks, to double check the parachute system works at optimal levels. So, we could see a couple of different tests occur in the coming weeks in preparedness for SpaceX's historic first crewed mission to space.
SpaceX's Demo-2 mission will be a huge deal, because the United States has not launched astronauts aboard American-made spacecraft since 2011. NASA has been launching crewed missions aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft. We are about to enter an exciting era in American spaceflight!