Hours after the launching of the first commercial spaceship designed to carry humans by SpaceX, the Crew Dragon, founder and CEO Elon Musk has a bright future to think of.
The visionary space travel enthusiast said that he would not mind taking a ride on the spaceship if the test launch turns out to be successful. “I’d be happy to go on the vehicle,” Musk, who has never traveled to space, said of the Crew Dragon spaceship, his rocket company’s space capsule during a post-launch press conference at the Kennedy Space Center. “I think it’s a good design.”
On Sunday, at around 2:49 A.M. ET, SpaceX together with NASA have launched its first commercial spaceship designed for human space travel on its six-day-long flight test called the Demo-1.
The test flight was not boarded by humans, however. It was instead carrying a 499 lb cargo and a female crash test dummy, named ‘Ripley.’
Loads of sensors in Ripley and the capsule are logging data that will help engineers tweak the spaceship’s design and qualify it for human passengers.
Crew dragon too the historical launch at the Pad 39 – exactly where Apollo missions were launched – atop the Falcon 9 rocket. Since NASA retired its fleet of space shuttles in July 2011, NASA had relied on Russian rockets. This is the first time that an American spaceship was launched in the last eight years.
“Tonight was a big night for the United States of America, a great night for NASA. But what today represents is a new era in spaceflight,” Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s administrator, said during his opening remarks at the briefing.
The mission, Demo-1 is part of the $8 billion Commercial Crew Program program that spurs two companies – SpaceX and Boeing – to build commercial vehicles to fly astronauts to space. NASA has supported the companies by giving them cash, expertise in human space flight, and the honor of restoring American pride.
The bigger-picture objective, Bridenstine added, is to treat the agency and the US itself as “one of many customers in a robust, commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit” to cut costs and increase human access to space.
“It’s been 17 years — we still haven’t launched anyone yet — but hopefully we will later this year,” Musk said, referencing his company’s founding in 2002. “That would definitely be the culmination of a long dream for me and a lot of other people at SpaceX.”
How safe is Crew Dragon?
The Business Insider wrote: “After Crew Dragon docks with the space station early Sunday morning, two astronauts and a cosmonaut already at the $150 billion floating laboratory will unload and inspect SpaceX’s new vehicle.”
“Docking is a tricky maneuver, though; a wrong move could whack Crew Dragon into its docking node. SpaceX has yet to attempt automated docking, despite launching 16 cargo spaceships to the ISS in recent years. Each one of those was grabbed by a robotic arm on the space station and carefully berthed; they didn’t want autopilot to a berth, as Crew Dragon will attempt to do.”
“To be frank, I’m a little emotionally exhausted because that was super stressful. But it worked — so far,” Musk said on Saturday. “We have to dock to the station, and we have to come back, but so far it’s worked. … We’ve passed some of the riskiest items.”
Musk added that a “crazy amount of hard work from a lot of smart people at SpaceX” has gone into making Crew Dragon, along what he described as “a lot of help from NASA.”
Musk was seated on the dais with NASA’s Bridenstine and other employees including veteran astronauts and test pilots Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. If SpaceX succeeds in Demo-1, the two astronauts were chosen to fly with the Crew Dragon as soon as July on a mission called Demo-2.
“I expect it will be extremely stressful. But doing this test flight, I think it goes a long way towards feeling good about the flight with Bob and Doug,” Musk responded.
He added that after the Crew Dragon was launched and have separated from the Falcon 9 rocket, he went to NASA astronauts and solicited their opinion about the vehicle.
“They were like, ‘How do you feel about flying on it?'” Musk said the astronauts asked him. They then all agreed they felt good, pending the completion of the mission.
“The [SpaceX] guys told us what was going to happen, and that’s what happened,” Behnken said, chiming in. “That’s how we like it to be.” /apr