The first uncrewed flight of SpaceX’s new passenger spacecraft named the Crew Dragon is all set to launch on March 2nd out of Cape Canaveral, Florida. NASA and SpaceX both have agreed to move forward with the flight after full day reviews, and concluded that the vehicle is ready to see space and travel to the International Space Station.
If the spacecraft successfully makes its way to the orbit then SpaceX is just one step behind of putting the first humans on board its spacecraft. This flight, called Demonstration Mission-1, or DM-1 is a great achievement for NASA Commercial Crew program. It is an initiative to send astronauts of NASA the International Space Station aboard private vehicles. As the Shuttle program of NASA has ended, from then NASA relied on Russia to take its astronauts to and from low Earth orbit.
It was an expensive arrangement which also limits the types of missions NASA could run, Soon the US astronauts might launch US-made vehicles once again just like NASA operates during the space shuttle Era. Therefore, for this Shuttle service program, both SpaceX and rival company Boeing has been manufacturing new capsules to take NASA astronauts to and from low Earth orbit. But NASA wants that both of the companies send the vehicles empty in space for a test before putting people on board.
Boeing spacecraft the CST-100 Starliner is all set to fly uncrewed for the first time this April, while the SpaceX’s Crew Dragon has been at Cape Canaveral since December ready for flight. Moreover, SpaceX also tested out the engines on Falcon 9 rocket, the company just needs NASA’s approval to take those capsules into the orbit. Earlier, NASA gives a date of 2nd March which was not official, but now the company announced that they are going to test the vehicle on the same date.
SpaceX is just a week away from its biggest mission, the capsule is set to fly at 2:48 AM ET from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Early morning launch time dictated by the International Space Station’s position in orbit. If the crew dragon gets off the ground, then it will remain in the orbit until the early morning of Sunday and try to automatically dock with the space station. Then it will remain at the ISS for a week before detaching early Friday morning and returning to Earth to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean near Florida.
“This vehicle, inside, has a lot of instrumentation,” Kathy Lueders, said during a press conference at Kennedy Space Center today. “We’re getting a lot of imagery of the vehicle as it’s coming back.”
The duration of the flight is short as compared to the other month long missions of a spacecraft. The vehicle hopefully provides NASA and SpaceX about all the details which the crew dragon gathered in the Space, then the companies will decide whether the passenger spacecraft is ready to take astronauts or not. The capsule would be loaded with the same weight when it has Astronauts on board. Also, it will be carrying a test dummy suited in SpaceX’s custom flight suits.
The official members of NASA said that they are taking the test flight very seriously even if it is for a short period. The crew dragon will arrive at the international space station with three people on board, and NASA wants to make sure the safety even for those three members.
Bill Gerstenmaier who is the associate administrator for NASA’s human spaceflight program, said during a press conference, “It’s a test flight, but it’s more than a test flight, It’s a mission to the International Space Station.”
After these test flight complete, SpaceX is all set to do another test flight with the Crew Dragon in April. In which all the vehicle’s emergency abort system will going to be tested, this failsafe feature is made in case if anything goes wrong with the passenger spacecraft during flight and the Crew Dragon needs to get to safety. During the test, the thruster which is embedded in the hull of the Crew Dragon will fire carrying the capsule away from the rocket.