SpaceX has successfully launched the Crew Dragon, and it is currently on the way to the International Space Station. Elon Musk says that they might fly people aboard it by summer if things go according to plan.
Crew Dragon Launch
On Saturday, the Crew Dragon capsule was launched for the first time. It lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center, sitting atop SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. The Crew Dragon is made to carry humans, but for the test launch, it only carried a sensor-equipped dummy called Ripley, named in honor of the Alien movies.
The capsule is expected to reach the International Space Station and dock with it autonomously for the first time. It is scheduled to return back to earth on March 8 when it will splash down off the coast of Florida.
The unmanned test flight is intended to demonstrate SpaceX’s ability to safely and reliably carry astronauts to and from the ISS. The data gathered from this test launch will be determined whether it is ready to carry people aboard in July.
Ripley pic.twitter.com/Z9Ztram8Ai — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 1, 2019
In 2012, SpaceX made history when the Dragon became the first commercial spacecraft to deliver cargo to the ISS. Before then, such feats were only achieved through the efforts of two governments. That said, the Dragon was always intended to carry humans as well, and that is where the Crew Dragon comes in.
The Crew Dragon is a fully autonomous aircraft that can be controlled both by the onboard crew as well as SpaceX’s mission control in California. Because it was designed to carry humans, it has an advanced emergency escape system that will allow the crew to safely escape should anything go wrong.
It also has an Environmental Control and Life Support System that makes for a comfortable and safe ride for the crew members, and its displays will provide real-time information on the state of the spacecraft.
That said, the Crew Dragon is also designed to be an enjoyable ride. That is why it also has three windows, from where the crew members can catch a glimpse of space.