Elon Musk’s SpaceX is about to execute the first mission of the Dragon Crew capsule to the International Space Station and back; scheduled for the 2nd of March.
Demo-1, as the name suggests, will not carry astronauts to the ISS, but will be a test of all the equipment of the private company’s designed to be used on the real mission. A crewed mission could be scheduled for as early as this summer.
Who can take us there?
Russian technology, which has been on duty since the 1960s is really expensive for the US to access, Roscosmos charges as much as 80 million dollars per astronaut. Another motivation for returning this astronaut ferrying task back to Americans is rooted way back in the Cold War era- the U.S. wants its leading position and the pride what comes with it again.
They have all the chance to start successful launches in the close future since two companies are working on this mission simultaneously: Boeing is testing the capsule CST-100 Starliner, while SpaceX is ready to send the Dragon Crew capsule to an orbital spaceflight on March 2nd with the help of the company’s own Falcon 9 two-stage rocket with a reusable first stage.
A demonstration flight aims to test basically all the features of the Dragon Crew capsule, which is basically an upgraded version of the company’s Dragon Cargo, remodeled to be able to travel with seven people on board.
Dragon Cargo has been completing supply missions to the ISS and back since 2012 successfully, thus it is more than likely that its more up-to-date sister will succeed on the first flight.
Dragon Crew is a reusable space capsule just like the Cargo variant, pimped with attributes designed for human use, like seats, windows, and displays. The two-week-long mission’s crucial element’s going to be the test of the approaching and docking equipment, and the re-entry system which guides the capsule back to Earth.
Furthermore, Dragon Crew is armored with an escape system, consists of eight SpaceX SuperDraco engines built into the capsule separating it from the rocket in case of a malfunction during liftoff. (This feature will have to be tested later in June before the first ‘real’ take-off with astronauts on board.)
Just the first step before the big jump?
Dragon Crew can be considered as a prelude to something ‘absolutely insane’ -to use SpaceX founder/CEO Elon Musk’s own words when describing one of the company’s infamous vision, called Starship, a hundred passenger 'do-it-all spaceship' which is aimed to bring people to Mars in the foreseeable future as well as to execute hypersonic flights between remote cities on Earth.