Dragon is the first free-flying capsule after shuttles became a thing of the past in 2011, designed to carry cargo and astronauts to space.
Elon Musk established SpaceX in 2002. The company designs, produces, and launches progressive rockets and spacecraft. The aim is to revolutionize space technology, with the primary goal to enable colonization of other planets.
Dragon Crew Capsule Takes Off
Dragon is a spacecraft designed by SpaceX aerospace engineers and can take up to seven passengers. It is equipped with the Draco thrusters, which enable orbital maneuvering. Moreover, Dragon’s trunk supports the capsule while ascending and separates from the capsule shortly before it re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere. The capsule contains four parachutes for a more stable landing.
If this mission succeeds, NASA will approve further flights with astronauts later this year.
The Dragon capsule, carried by the rocket Falcon 9, took off from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, at 2:49 a.m. EST (7:49 a.m. GMT).
The Dragon is to arrive at the International Space Station (ISS) on Sunday morning. It will remain at the Station for five days. The capsule is expected to get back to Earth on Friday around 1:45 p.m. GMT.
Although this is a test flight, the Dragon will not lack a passenger. The first passenger will be “Ripley,” named after the leading character in the famous Sci-Fi franchise, “Alien.”
The smart dummy in a custom-tailored suit is equipped with various sensors, positioned in the head, neck, and the spine area. “Ripley” will collect data that is of the utmost importance for the future human flights, such as all sorts of forces that the crew could possibly experience during the mission.
Importance of SpaceX
This mission is the cornerstone for SpaceX Co that will enable the return of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
SpaceX has made significant progress in the 17 years since it was founded.
After Mr. Musk’s words, they were focusing on serving NASA’s demands, but once Dragon is in regular operation, he thinks they will seek customers among the general public. This decision was supported by the NASA administrator and NASA in general.
He said that commercial flights could also involve civilians, just like with Soyuz before.
Otherwise, the company will start to work on more complex projects — Starship and Super Heavy rocket. Their purpose will be to take people to the Moon and Mars.
NASA — After Shuttles Went to Retirement
From the very beginning, NASA itself managed all the elements and processes within the space program.
Following the 2011 and the shuttle withdrawal, it began to open doors to civil engineering and industry. NASA is expanding its demands towards the industry and is becoming more flexible regarding those. On the other hand, NASA administrators still supervise their every step. Due to that, NASA manages to cut the costs but raises efficiency levels.
Jim Bridenstine, NASA chief, give reassurance that this program would not cut off the partnership with Russia’s Roscosmos. The two agencies had great collaboration using Soyuz vehicles. He also stated that NASA wanted to make sure that it was able for round trips to the ISS and that they could continue to lunch on each other’s rockets.
Test Flight or Critical Mission
Even though the capsule will be unpopulated, this trial flight will not be treated as such, but as a real mission; even as a critical one, according to the manager of NASA’s ISS program, Kirk Shireman. He says that ISS has three people up to the task, so this mission has to work.
Boeing’s Crew Space Transport
Boeing also developed its spacecraft for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, named CST-100 Starliner. It is designed to take in seven crew members or a mix of passengers and cargo. Starliner’s demo flight to ISS is expected in the next couple of months.