SpaceX performed a hot fire test of the Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon vehicle onboard on Thursday ahead of a planned test flight in February. The test took place at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. SpaceX has a contract from NASA to ferry American astronauts to the ISS, a job currently outsourced to Russian Soyuz craft.
The short test was released by SpaceX via Twitter. Sources close to SpaceX indicate the test flight is scheduled for February 23, but there has been no confirmation from the company itself.
SpaceX and Boeing are working hard to get their vehicles ready for the critical testing. Some NASA staff are working without pay alongside their commercial partnership colleagues due to the ongoing Trump led shutdown.
Static fire test complete—targeting February launch from historic Launch Complex 39A for Crew Dragon’s first demonstration flight! pic.twitter.com/sJF24U3UOM— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 25, 2019
NASA watches carefully over its commercial partners
Both Boeing and SpaceX have contracts with NASA to develop spacecraft suitable for crewed missions. Boeing's CST-100 Starliner is also currently in testing stages. Both crafts will carry seven astronauts.
The Crew Dragon will launch using SpaceX's recently tested Falcon 9 rockets, while the Starliner will use United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rockets.
The USA has not had a spacecraft suitable for crewed missions in operation since 2011 when the Space Shuttle was retired.
SpaceX hasn’t released any comment about whether their testing yesterday was successful, though some observers think the test was possibly too short and may need to be redone.
NASA would have been overseeing the test, the American Space Agency recently completed a workplace and safety audit on SpaceX and Boeing.
"In the coming months, prior to the crew test flights of Crew Dragon and Starliner, NASA will be conducting a cultural assessment study in coordination with our commercial partners to ensure the companies are meeting NASA's requirements for workplace safety, including the adherence to a drug-free environment," said the NASA statement at the time of the announcement.
SpaceX determined to continue to make space history
The rocket will now be moved back to SpaceX's Horizontal Integration Facility at the company's Florida site. SpaceX has been sharing the development journey of the Dragon Crew from its initial design iterations to its current testing.
The cargo iteration of Dragon made history in 2012 it became the first commercial spacecraft to deliver cargo to the International Space Station.
Images of the interior of the Crew Dragon was shared by SpaceX a year ago. SpaceX says the spacecraft was designed for an ‘enjoyable ride’ and has four seats for its crew made from the ‘highest-grade carbon fiber and Alcantara cloth.’
The lucky crew will have views from the seats of ‘Earth, the Moon, and the wider Solar System.'