First human flight of SpaceX's Crew Dragon may happen as soon as May

First ever human test flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule could take off as soon as May

  • SpaceX will conduct a test of Crew Dragon’s in-flight abort system this weekend
  • The test will be the final one before the capsule is cleared for human launch
  • Last year, Crew Dragon exploded during a test and badly damaged the capsule 

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon first human-passengered launch may come sooner than expected.

According to a tweet from Ars Technica’s Eric Berger, Crew Dragon may now take its first astronauts to space on May 7 if everything goes according to plan. Variables could push the launch into Mary or April, added Berger.

‘Working date for SpaceX’s Demo-2 launch is May 7,’ tweeted Berger.

‘Dragon is in good shape. Launch date is fluid and mission may move into late April, or push later into May depending on a number of variables not hardware related. No final decision yet on duration.’ 

News of the expected launch date follows up successes on a major test of the craft’s launch abort system last month in which SpaceX put Crew Dragon to the ultimate test.

During the test, the craft launched into high-altitude and the boosters were exploded while the capsule was aborted at high-velocity – the most stressful point of the launch. 

NASA’s commercial crew program manager said at the time that the launch abort test was ‘our last open milestone’ before sending astronauts Doug Hurley and Robert Behnken to the International Space Station.  

The capsule has gone through ups and downs throughout the past several years. In April last year, an explosion engulfed the empty capsule in fire and smoke.

 The incident was set off by a leaking component and completely destroyed the capsule – a glitch that has contributed to SpaceX’s delayed timeline for Crew Dragon, which it’s developing for NASA

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, pictured with an illustration of the Crew Dragon capsule, has long sought to bring Crew Dragon back to form after an explosion derailed progress last April

As SpaceX works to get its Crew Dragon operational the company is working to reach a similar milestone in a test of its other craft, Starship. 

The company hopes to fly its Starship rocket 12 miles into the air and then land it back on the ground, upright.

The test, which the company filed a permit with the FCC for, could take place as soon as mid-March. 

Once the the capsule will be cleared for launching astronauts but also eventually clear the way for civilian space tourism.


The March 2 test, the first launch of U.S. astronauts from U.S. soil in eight years, will inform the system design and operations (Artist’s impression)

The capsule measures about 20 feet tall by 12 feet in diameter, and will carry up to 7 astronauts at a time. 

The Crew Dragon features an advanced emergency escape system (which was tested earlier this year) to swiftly carry astronauts to safety if something were to go wrong, experiencing about the same G-forces as a ride at Disneyland. 

It also has an Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) that provides a comfortable and safe environment for crew members. 

Crew Dragon’s displays will provide real-time information on the state of the spacecraft’s capabilities, showing everything from Dragon’s position in space, to possible destinations, to the environment on board.  

Those CRS-2 Dragon missions will use ‘propulsive’ landings, where the capsule lands on a landing pad using its SuperDraco thrusters rather than splashing down in the ocean. 

 That will allow NASA faster access to the cargo returned by those spacecraft, and also build up experience for propulsive landings of crewed Dragon spacecraft.

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