Home Science SpaceX Could Launch NASA Astronauts to Space in Early 2020

SpaceX Could Launch NASA Astronauts to Space in Early 2020

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SpaceX Crew Dragon Capsule ready for Demo-2 in early 2020.NASA at present is dependent on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to take American astronauts to and from orbits since July 2011.

NASA desire to have its own American Vehicle to end this dependence on Russia, they contracted SpaceX and Boeing to build a vehicle. In 2014, NASA encouraged the development of vehicle via Commercial Crew Program and awarded $2.6 billion to SpaceX and $4.2 billion to Boeing to make their vehicles ready called Crew Dragon and the CST-100 Starliner.

Image Credit: Engadget

Originally NASA predicted that both vehicles would get up and running by 2017, but they are already behind the schedule. Fortunately, Crew Dragon is now almost ready, according to the reports, NASA chief Jim Bridenstine and SpaceX founder Elon Musk said today during an event at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif.

“We are getting very close, and we’re very confident that, in the first part of next year, we will be ready to launch American astronauts on American rockets,” Bridenstine said.

“If there’s some way just to make it go faster, I would make it go faster,” Musk said of Crew Dragon development.

“I am looking forward to the SpaceX announcement,” Bridenstine said on Twitter Friday. “In the meantime, Commercial Crew is years behind schedule. NASA expects to see the same level of enthusiasm focused on the investments of the American taxpayer. It’s time to deliver.

On April 20, Demo-1 was conducted at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and series of engine tests were carried on Crew Dragon. But something went wrong in the test and just before Crew Dragon’s Super Draco abort the engine, which was designed to safely blast the capsule in event of emergency fired up and the vehicle was destroyed.

Bridenstine praised the concern our timelines and told that this will only hold only if things go according to plan and that’s not guaranteed after Demo-1 results.

SpaceX Demo-2 is targeted in early 2020, January through March. Recently some issues with capsule’s parachute were reported. Parachute design will be switched from Mark 2 to Mark 3, which has stronger lines and better load-distributing capacity, nylon cords are replaced with stronger nylon material. Mark 3 still needs to be tested fully and certified.

“We’re hoping to have the first successful Mark 3 drop test within a week or two, and then there’ll be a steady cadence of tests thereafter,” Musk said. “We certainly want to get at least something on the order of 10 successful tests in a row before launching astronauts.”

Those two issues — the abort propulsion system and the parachutes — are the only items “that SpaceX is aware of that put the schedule at risk,” Musk said.

Like Bridenstine, however, the billionaire entrepreneur issued a note of caution: “But there may be other things that we discover. This is also important to bear in mind.”

Bridenstine said Boeing is experiencing “similar challenges” with testing the spacecraft and he expects its first flight is “months away.”

Bridenstine said NASA has candidates in mind and will bring on an associate administrator “the coming weeks or months.”

“This is a big deal for our country, and we can’t get it wrong,” Bridenstine said. “We want to make sure we get it right.”

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