Elon Musk teases images of its Crew Dragon ahead of NASA tests – Daily Mail

‘You must be at least this tall to ride’: Elon Musk reveals SpaceX’s manned Crew Dragon capsule on the launchpad ahead of crucial NASA tests that will lead to America’s return to manned spaceflight

  • Unmanned test of SpaceX Crew Dragon was set for liftoff on Jan. 7
  • Will launch atop Falcon 9 rocket for crucial first flight test ahead of crew mission
  • Test will provide data on ground systems, on-orbit, docking, landing operations
Advertisement

SpaceX is putting the final touches to a historic launch of its manned capsule that will see America return to manned spaceflight for the fist time since the Shuttle was retired. 

‘Preparing to return human spaceflight capabilities to the United States, Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 went vertical at historic Launch Complex 39A in Florida,’ SpaceX tweeted, revealed the rocket is now upright on the launch pad.

It also showed off the new walkway astronauts will walk down – complete with a ‘you must be this tall to ride’ sign.

It is expected to launch an unmanned test flight for the craft later this month. 

Scroll down for video 

'Preparing to return human spaceflight capabilities to the United States, Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 went vertical at historic Launch Complex 39A in Florida,' SpaceX tweeted, revealed the rocket is now upright on the launch pad.

‘Preparing to return human spaceflight capabilities to the United States, Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 went vertical at historic Launch Complex 39A in Florida,’ SpaceX tweeted, revealed the rocket is now upright on the launch pad.

Musk tweeted this image of the entrance to the craft, showing a height restriction believed to be inspired by rollercoaster

Musk tweeted this image of the entrance to the craft, showing a height restriction believed to be inspired by rollercoaster

WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE CAPSULES? 

After the uncrewed flight tests, both companies will carry out spacecraft abort tests to demonstrate their crew escape capability during an actual on-pad, or ascent emergency. 

The final test flights for each company will be crew flight tests to the space station prior to being certified by NASA for crew rotation missions. 

The first, uncrewed, test of the craft was due for liftoff from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Jan. 7, NASA – but this has now been pushed back until at least January 17th to allows the return of the Dragon spacecraft from the company’s 16th commercial resupply services mission.  

The first unmanned orbital test flight, however, is ‘about a month away,’ according to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. 

The Demo-1 flight test is a crucial milestone in the space agency’s Commercial Crew Program, which aims to launch humans to space from U.S. soil for the first time in nearly a decade.

NASA and SpaceX have agreed to move the target launch date of the uncrewed to the International Space Station. SpaceX coordinated with the Eastern Range for a launch on Thursday, Jan 17. 

The rocket rolling out of the SpaceX hanger to historic Launch Complex 39A in Florida

The rocket rolling out of the SpaceX hanger to historic Launch Complex 39A in Florida

This adjustment allows the return of the Dragon spacecraft from the company’s 16th commercial resupply services mission. 

SpaceX’s Demo-1 will provide key data associated with the ground, integrated rocket and spacecraft, and autonomous docking systems, and the landing profile ahead of the company’s flight test with astronauts, known as Demo-2.

On the launchpad: Rocket and Crew Dragon capsule ready to go

On the launchpad: Rocket and Crew Dragon capsule ready to go

The first unmanned orbital test flight, however, is 'about a month away,' according to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

The first unmanned orbital test flight, however, is ‘about a month away,’ according to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

‘We still have more work to do as the certification process, hardware development and readiness reviews continue,’ said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. 

‘The key readiness reviews along with NASA’s continued analysis of hardware and software testing and certification data must be closed out prior to launch. 

The upcoming steps before the test missions are critical, and their importance can’t be understated. 

‘We are not driven by dates, but by data. Ultimately, we’ll fly SpaceX Demo-1 at the right time, so we get the right data back to support the in-flight abort test and the next test flight when our astronauts are aboard. 

NASA said SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft - which will shuttle three astronauts to space from the same launch pad that sent Apollo 11's three-man crew to the moon in 1969 - will make its debut flight atop SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket on Jan. 7

NASA said SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft – which will shuttle three astronauts to space from the same launch pad that sent Apollo 11’s three-man crew to the moon in 1969 – will make its debut flight atop SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket on Jan. 7

‘However, the fact we’re coordinating target dates with the Eastern Range is a great example of the real progress we’re making with commercial crew and how close we are to actually flying American spacecraft and rockets from American soil again.’   

While NASA did not detail the flight path, it said the test would provide data on the performance of the Falcon 9, Crew Dragon capsule, and ground systems, as well as on-orbit, docking and landing operations.

SpaceX and Boeing Co are the two main contractors selected under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to send astronauts to space as soon as 2019, using their Crew Dragon and CST-100 Starliner spacecraft respectively.

Since the U.S. space shuttle program was shut down in 2011, NASA has had to rely on Russia to fly astronauts to the space station, a $100 billion orbital research laboratory that flies about 250 miles (402 km) above Earth.

The Demo-1 launch is the latest test in a rigorous certification timeline imposed under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. 

While SpaceX is targeting early January, NASA spokeswoman Marie Lewis said the demo mission could be pushed back because ‘flying safely has always taken precedence over schedule.’

WHAT IS SPACEX’ CREW DRAGON?

The capsule measures about 20 feet tall by 12 feet in diameter, and will carry up to 7 astronauts at a time. 

The Crew Dragon features an advanced emergency escape system (which was tested earlier this year) to swiftly carry astronauts to safety if something were to go wrong, experiencing about the same G-forces as a ride at Disneyland. 

SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule measures 20 feet tall by 12 feet in diameter, and will carry up to 7 astronauts at a time. However, the manned flight will have four astronauts on board

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule measures 20 feet tall by 12 feet in diameter, and will carry up to 7 astronauts at a time. However, the manned flight will have four astronauts on board

It also has an Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) that provides a comfortable and safe environment for crew members. 

Crew Dragon’s displays will provide real-time information on the state of the spacecraft’s capabilities, showing everything from Dragon’s position in space, to possible destinations, to the environment on board.  

 Those CRS-2 Dragon missions will use ‘propulsive’ landings, where the capsule lands on a landing pad using its SuperDraco thrusters rather than splashing down in the ocean. 

 That will allow NASA faster access to the cargo returned by those spacecraft, and also build up experience for propulsive landings of crewed Dragon spacecraft.

Pictured is the Crew Dragon spacecraft simulator. The Crew Dragon features an advanced emergency escape system to swiftly carry astronauts to safety if something were to go wrong

Pictured is the Crew Dragon spacecraft simulator. The Crew Dragon features an advanced emergency escape system to swiftly carry astronauts to safety if something were to go wrong

Founded by Tesla Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk, SpaceX said if the Jan. 7 test is successful, it plans to launch its first crewed mission in June 2019, but the timeline may shift.

Boeing plans a similar test launch of the Starliner spacecraft atop its Atlas 5 rocket as soon as March, with a crewed mission following in August.

The Jan. 7 launch date announcement comes a day after NASA said it would conduct a ‘cultural assessment study’ of the companies, ‘including the adherence to a drug-free environment,’ prior to crew test flights.