SpaceX / NASA
On a launch pad in Florida, SpaceX is preparing for the first flight test of its new space capsule designed for the transport of astronauts.
Even if the Crew Dragon capsule has no more people on board when the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket takes off on Saturday morning, assuming the schedule does not slip, it's still a big problem for US spaceflight.
Indeed, since the withdrawal of space shuttles by NASA in 2011, the agency must trust Russian space vehicles to bring astronauts to the International Space Station. John Logsdon, a space historian at George Washington University, said the SpaceX flight test would be the first step towards restoring the nation's ability to place people in orbit.
"And because it's that first step," says Logsdon, "it has a sort of transcendent meaning beyond the event itself."
The last time SpaceX did a major flight test, the company tested its big new Falcon Heavy rocket by launching a cherry-red Tesla convertible on a celestial ride. universe accompanied by a soundtrack of David Bowie. We hope that the next launch will be an entertaining show.
After all, the founder of SpaceX is a famous showman rarely boring. Elon Musk is on a colonization mission to Mars and his company has spent the last fifteen years methodically achieving this goal. The company began offering satellite launch services at extremely low prices and then transferred its cargo to the International Space Station for NASA. Now he is testing in flight his first crew vehicle.
"Human theft is SpaceX's main mission," group leader Hans Koenigsmann told reporters at a pre-flight briefing. "We are therefore very excited to do this, nothing is more important to us than this company."
For the last test, another manikin will be on board. This one will have all kinds of sensors to see how a real human would live the trip. "We obviously measure the responses on the human body and the environment," said Koenigsmann. "We want to make sure everything is perfect."
David McNew / Getty Images
The white bell-shaped Crew Dragon offers space for seven astronauts. It is actually an inflated version of the SpaceX robotic cargo ship. If the capsule fires as planned and everything is checked, it will go to the space station and dock there. The three astronauts currently living in the outpost will be able to open the hatch and enter the interior to load and unload a cargo before the capsule returns to Earth and spills into the ship. ;Atlantic Ocean.
This means that this mission involves people and that NASA and SpaceX have focused on security. "We are doing very risky things that most people do not do," says NASA's Bill Gerstenmaier, who notes that his agency and SpaceX have different cultures. He thinks that's a good thing, as they have collaborated in creating some sort of private taxi service in the space that NASA can use to bring astronauts to the space station, allowing NASA to focus on building a huge rocket for deep space exploration.
"It's fun to work with a new partner who approaches the problem in a slightly different way.They do not have the same backgrounds as those of NASA, and they do not address design the same way as us, "said Gerstenmaier. . "And it's cool, I mean, it's really cool."
NASA has already chosen two space veterans to take off in the Crew Dragon, assuming the Saturday test and the others are going well.
NASA / Bill Ingalls
Kathy Lueders, responsible for what NASA calls her commercial crew program, said she had recently accompanied these two astronauts when they went on a launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center, in Florida, to see the SpaceX vehicle about to go up.
"And it really gave us the impression of getting ready, and realizing that the next vehicle we will be on the track will be their crewed flight test," Lueders said.
This flight test could take place in July.
Boeing, another company that collaborates with NASA, is also working on the first flight of its new astronaut carousel. It's called the Starliner, and an unprepared flight test is scheduled for April.