Image Source: SpaceX
Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, shared a video simulation of what will happen during SpaceX's first crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The rocket company has been developing their updated version of the Dragon V2 spacecraft, also known as Crew Dragon, under a contract with NASA's Commercial Crew Services, which aims to launch astronauts from American soil. The United States has not launched manned mission since the shuttle was grounded in 2011. Russian spacecraft has launched astronauts to the station for almost a decade -but that is about to change soon.
The animation Musk shared (video above), shows astronauts at the NASA Kennedy Space Center arriving in style on a black Tesla Model X to launch Pad 39A. The electric Model X SUV features 'wing' doors that open upwards. The astronauts can be seen walking out of a Model X towards the access arm hallway, leading to the Dragon craft that is attached atop a 229.6 feet tall Falcon 9 rocket.
Is Musk hinting that SpaceX's first crewed mission could feature NASA astronauts arriving in an awesome Tesla car!?
Image Source: Tesla
Crew Dragon demonstrated its reliability in space when it conducted its first voyage last year in March. During the first unmanned demonstration mission, Demo-1, SpaceX successfully launched the upgraded Dragon spacecraft into orbit. It became the first spacecraft in history to dock autonomously to the space station. Demonstrating that their technology is reliable to carry humans on board one day.
Dragon is capable of carrying up to 7 astronauts, it's interior features white and black color schemes. Above the seats, there is a control panel consisting of 3 screens with touch screen display. The craft also has a restroom section with a privacy curtain. It has a cargo area that can carry up to 7,291 lb of payload to the orbiting laboratory.
Last year, engineering teams conducted several safety tests on Dragon's parachutes and SuperDraco engines to ensure the craft can be safe under a variety of situations. SpaceX is in the final stage of testing, they are scheduled to conduct an In-Flight Abort (IFA) test on January 18. Read more: NASA and SpaceX rescheduled Crew Dragon's vital In-Flight Abort Test.
If testing goes well, the first crewed mission, Demo-2, will take place within the first quarter this year! NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, speaking to journalists and Musk, announced that a Commercial Crew test flight could take place in the spring of 2020.
"Elon and I are in strong agreement on this, that the one thing we have in development that is of the highest priority is launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil."
Bridenstine said, Musk nodded in agreement.
The pair of NASA astronauts selected to preform this mission are Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, who have been training in their SpaceX-made spacesuits.
Astronauts Behnken and Hurley were wearing their new suits at the SpaceX facility last year, as part of a training session for the future Demo-2 mission. Musk said:
"The launch of the crew is something that we’ve been working towards for 17 years. This is the reason SpaceX was created, we’re incredibly honored to partner with NASA and to make this happen."
Astronauts have worked closely with the company over the past years by providing critical feedbacks on the Dragon design and spacesuits.