Technicians check out the Crew Dragon capsule in Florida after the completion of thermal vacuum and acoustic testing at NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Ohio. (SpaceX via Instagram)
After months of testing, a SpaceX Dragon capsule that’s designed to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station has arrived in Florida, marking a significant step toward this summer’s scheduled test launch.
Even though the vehicle is called a “Crew Dragon,” this Dragon won’t carry crew on its first flight. Instead, it’s due to make an uncrewed practice run to the space station during what’s known as Demonstration Mission 1, or DM-1.
Before this week’s shipment to Florida, the Dragon underwent thermal vacuum tests as well as acoustic tests at NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Ohio. Today SpaceX showed off a picture of the Crew Dragon, which is a redesigned, beefed-up version of its robotic cargo-carrying Dragon, via Twitter and Instagram.
NASA’s current schedule calls for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket to launch the DM-1 mission next month from Kennedy Space Center. However, that schedule is dependent not only on the pace of preparations, but also on the timetable for station arrivals and departures.
After several weeks, the Crew Dragon would unhook from the station and descend back down to Earth, still uncrewed, for a Pacific splashdown and recovery.
SpaceX will follow up on DM-1 with an in-flight abort test, and eventually with a crewed demonstration flight to the space station, known as DM-2.
Meanwhile, Boeing is moving ahead with work on its own space taxi, the CST-100 Starliner. The first three Starliner spacecraft are undergoing a variety of tests in preparation for this year’s first uncrewed flight to the space station. A crewed flight will follow, and NASA has the option of extending that flight to fit the station’s needs.
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