Crew Dragon has reached a new milestone in its long journey toward its first launch. The space capsule designed to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) and beyond arrived at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on July 12, to undergo the last series of preparations ahead of its maiden flight, reports NASA Spaceflight.
The human-ferrying space vehicle has recently completed a number of on-ground tests meant to assess how well Crew Dragon will be able to manage the vacuum, thermal, and acoustic conditions that await it both during launch and while in Low Earth Orbit.
As the Inquisitr previously reported, Crew Dragon went through an anechoic chamber for an electromagnetic interference test in late May. The following month, SpaceX’s crew capsule performed thermal and acoustic tests inside NASA’s vacuum chamber at Plum Brook Station in Ohio. Last but not least, the human-carrying space pod aced an emergency abort test last week, successfully deploying its four parachutes for an impeccable soft landing.
Now that the Crew Dragon is finally at Cape Canaveral, the next step for SpaceX is to bring in the Falcon 9 “Block 5” booster that will carry the space pod to the ISS on its first demonstration mission, DM-1.
During the next few weeks, Crew Dragon will be integrated with the Falcon 9 rocket and perform the final stage of preparations before its highly anticipated launch.
DM-1 And DM-2
Its first test flight will be an unmanned trip to the ISS, where Crew Dragon is set to remain docked for a few weeks before heading back to Earth.
According to an announcement made prior to SpaceX’s last cargo resupply mission to the ISS in late June, the company is targeting an August 31 launch date for DM-1. However, as this is an internal work-to-launch readiness date, Crew Dragon’s first launch could be delayed.
After this first demonstration mission, the space pod is slated to perform an in-flight abort test, followed by the much-awaited first crewed space flight, DM-2.
At the moment, Crew Dragon’s first manned mission is scheduled for December, but Tech Spot argues that DM-2 stands a good chance of being pushed back until next year, to the first or even the second quarter of 2019.
Aside from the results of the pre-launch tests, the ISS’s crew rotation schedule and its timetable for visiting vehicles over the next few months will also determine the exact date of Crew Dragon’s launch, notes Engadget.
Once the human-carrying Dragon spacecraft is finally off the ground, NASA won’t need to rely on the Russian Soyuz capsules to ferry astronauts to the space station. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, as well as Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner — which is set to launch on a similar timeline as the Dragon capsule, states Space.com — are intended to help NASA resume its U.S.-based manned spaceflights for the first time in seven years, after the agency retired its space shuttles in 2011.