SpaceX GO Searcher, a recovery ship fitted with its own helipad and medical treatment facility, completed a successful test run this weekend.
The private spaceflight company founded and led by Elon Musk recently performed landing and patient-loading rehearsals on the ship, including how to pick up astronauts via a helicopter to be flown to a nearby hospital.
The drill was made in preparation for the Crew Dragon spacecraft's first manned orbital mission to the International Space Station.
SpaceX GO Searcher Unveiled
Here's how a successful flight from the ISS will work: the Crew Dragon capsule will descend from the ISS and land on the waters off the coast of Florida. The GO Searcher, which is equipped with its own crane, will retrieve the capsule from the water and bring it to the main deck.
The medical personnel onboard the ship will evaluate the astronauts and send them to the hospital via a helicopter if needed. Otherwise, if the astronauts were declared unharmed from the descent, the ship will head toward Cape Canaveral in Florida. A team from SpaceX will then accompany the astronauts to the nearby airport and they fly back to Houston.
GO Searcher is one of the ocean vessels that the company has acquired over the years to aid in its spaceflight efforts. Over the past three months, engineers have been upgrading GO Searchers as part of the operational transport and recovery mission of astronauts. Another vessel, the GO Navigator, will also be part of the mission.
SpaceX To Ferry NASA Astronauts To The ISS
The Crew Dragon is part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, which is meant to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS. Since 2011, the U.S. has been hitchhiking to Russia's Soyuz programs to send astronauts to space and then bring them back home.
The first flight of the Crew Dragon is expected to take place in January, but no astronauts will be onboard the capsule yet. The first manned flight is scheduled in June 2019.
Meanwhile, Boeing's uncrewed Orbital Flight Test is scheduled for March 2019.