SpaceX targets to launch astronauts this year  after Crew Dragon experience test success

Now that a critical safety experiment is in the rearview mirror, the first predicted flight of SpaceX Crew Dragon is due in a few months.

SpaceX’s  Crew Dragon capsule carried out an in-flight test on January  19, which was later aborted. The capsule was successfully flown away from its Falcon 9 rocket in less than 1 minute 30 seconds after launch, and eventually landing swiftly under parachutes about 20 miles(32 kilometers )off the coast of Florida, into the Atlantic Ocean.

The uncrewed experiment showed the spacecraft’s ability to ensure the safety of astronauts in case of an emergency during launching, which marks a huge development towards the path of crewed flight.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine during an after launch news brief on Sunday congratulated the SpaceX together with the NASA team on their final flight accomplishment. 

According to Bridenstine, a  few adjustments and some tests are to be perfected before SpaceX can be allowed to launch its second demo, a crewed flight experiment ferrying NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to and back from the International Space Station(ISS). 

Kathy Leuders, the manager of the space agency Commercial Crew Programme further mentioned that data acquired from the in-flight abort(IFA)still requires to be analyzed in depth.NASA also needs to observe two more system-level experiments of Crew Dragon,s newly renovated parachutes(which performed flawlessly today) being successful.

SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said the Crew Dragon capsule would be ready together with the Falcon 9 rocket, which will fly Demo-2 by the end of February. The company, by then, should have double-checked all the relevant systems. Mapping out a necessary schedule for the ISS mission will also require time, according to Elon.

Musk continued by stating that Demo- 2 is likely to be launched sometime this year. This view is a consensus between the NASA  and the SpaceX teams. 

He confidently put it that there is a high probability for the hardware to occur to be ready by the first quarter of the year and the first crewed launch in the second quarter.

Alongside the uncertainty in the timing of the launch of Demo-2, NASA is considering an extension to the duration in which the test flight would last, keeping  Behnken and Hurley on the ISS for much longer for purposes of getting more work on science done.

Behnken and Hurley, while at the Kennedy Space Center on Sunday, said they loved what they experienced from the Crew Dragon.

In a video posted on Twitter by  NASA,s  Commercial Crew Program, Behnken described it as an essential milestone accomplished by the SpaceX and the NASA team.

David Turner