Featured Image Source: SpaceX
SpaceX developed Crew Dragon under a contract with NASA's Commercial Crew Program, that aims to launch NASA astronauts from American soil for the first time this year. The spacecraft can carry up to seven passengers and attaches above their Falcon 9 rocket. Last year, during the first demonstration Demo-1 mission, Dragon showcased its reliability to safely fly and autonomously dock to the International Space Station (ISS). March 2nd was the one year anniversary of the Demo-1 mission. SpaceX celebrated by sharing a commemorative video of Crew Dragon's first successful mission to the orbiting laboratory.
The new video SpaceX shared via YouTube (shown below), showcases highlights of the Demo-1 mission which launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Demo-1 was an uncrewed test flight that launched an anthropomorphic test device, which is a mannequin named Ripley dressed in a SpaceX-designed spacesuit and a Celestial Earth plush toy that also featured sensors. SpaceX stated:
"On March 2, 2019, Falcon 9 launched Crew Dragon on its first demonstration mission, and the next day it became the first American spacecraft to autonomously dock with the International Space Station."
"After its stay at the space station, the spacecraft successfully splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean, completing its mission and demonstrating SpaceX's capabilities to safely and reliably fly astronauts to and from the space station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program," SpaceX officials wrote in the video description. During Demo-1, Dragon returned with around 330 pounds of cargo astronauts sent back from the space station to Earth.
Crew Dragon In-Flight Abort Test last month. Source: SpaceX
In January, SpaceX successfully completed an In-Flight Abort test which demonstrated how the spacecraft's launch escape system works in an event of an emergency. Dragon's technology has the capacity to automatically detect if there is a rocket malfunction and it immediately aborts Dragon away from an explosion.
SpaceX is now preparing to conduct their first manned mission known as Demo-2. It will consist of launching NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket on a voyage to the space station. NASA astronauts have been working alongside SpaceX over the course of years, more frequently during the previous months to prepare for their upcoming space voyages.
NASA Astronauts Doug Hurley (left) and Bob Behnken (right) are slated to be the first people SpaceX launches into orbit. Image Source: SpaceX
SpaceX has provided them with training equipment that include important simulation hardware that will familiarize astronauts with the Dragon spacecraft's software and features. Even though advanced technology has provided automation in spacecraft, astronauts need to be prepared to pilot the craft manually, in case of any kind of technological failure or spacecraft malfunction. To train for any kind of scenario NASA astronauts must learn about every feature Dragon possesses. Behnken and Hurley's preparation for SpaceX's first crewed flight involves intensive training exercises and dry runs of launch day procedures.
Teams are currently conducting final preparations ahead of the historic launch. SpaceX announced:
"SpaceX teams are currently in final preparations for another Crew Dragon flight – the one that will fly astronauts Astronaut Behnken and Astronaut Doug and return human spaceflight capabilities to the U.S."
The United States has not launched spacecraft with astronauts aboard to the space station since the space shuttle was retired in 2011. SpaceX will launch the first manned mission from American soil in nearly a decade! Crew Dragon's Demo-2 mission is slated to liftoff from historic launch Pad 39A at the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida, sometime between April and June this year. NASA officials are looking at May 7th as a potential target date. Launch Pad 39A is the same location from where Apollo astronauts who landed on the moon's surface lifted-off from.
Good luck to SpaceX!
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.