SpaceX will soon be able to start transporting its first crews to the International Space Station (ISS). A great first for the American company which has just passed a crucial security test.
SpaceX has been working on ISS supply operations since 2012, but this year the company will take it one step further by transporting its first crews. These trips will be made aboard a capsule – Crew Dragon – developed over several years. But before it could make its first voyage, the ship had to pass a final critical test.
This last test, carried out early this Sunday, aimed to test the emergency evacuation system of the Falcon 9 launcher capsule. Everything went very well.
A few minutes after takeoff, the rocket’s thrusters simulated a failure about 19 km above the ocean. Immediately, and thanks to its eight motors, the capsule detached to move away at a speed of 600 km / h.
Once the separation was complete, the four parachutes deployed to slow down the fall of the capsule which finally landed in the Atlantic Ocean where the SpaceX teams were pre-positioned. In the end, nine minutes elapsed between the launch and the water landing. Elon Musk called this test “perfect”.
Crew Dragon separating from Falcon 9 during today’s test, which verified the spacecraft’s ability to carry astronauts to safety in the unlikely event of an emergency on ascent pic.twitter.com/rxUDPFD0v5
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 19, 2020
A first flight this summer?
If everything goes as planned, NASA will soon be able to regain its autonomy in space transport. “We are about to launch American astronauts from American rockets from American soil,” said administrator Jim Bridenstine last year. It is recalled that since 2011, with the end of the space shuttle program, the agency has been dependent on the Russian spacecraft Soyuz for its journeys to the station.
Finally, note that SpaceX is not the only American company to be in the running. NASA is also working with Boeing, which is developing a capsule called “Starliner”. Boeing is slightly more behind. The capsule, which was to join the ISS at the end of December, has unfortunately failed in its mission.
To return to SpaceX, a first mission should be able to be planned this summer. We even know the names of two astronauts who will be installed in the capsule: Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. In preparation for this flight, Elon Musk recently shared a demonstration video revealing the process.