SpaceX and NASA conduct extraction rehearsals for the upcoming crewed flight of Crew Dragon

SpaceX and NASA teams coordinated to prepare astronauts for the highly anticipated crewed flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, which is tentatively set to happen by the end of the year.

The Crew Dragon launch, which is called Demo-2, is part of NASA’s plans of integrating private companies with future endeavors on space exploration. One of which is commissioning companies to create flight instruments for the agency.

Furthermore, Demo-2 will be a flight to and from Earth and the Internation Space Station (ISS). For Space X’s Crew Dragon, this will be its first chance to try putting living and breathing humans aboard one of its spacecraft.

On Tuesday, NASA posted on Twitter the images of teams from SpaceX and the space agency along with two astronauts — Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken — that has been selected to board the Crew Dragon.

The drill conducted was part of the company’s and the agency’s full rehearsal of extraction procedures once the Crew Dragon made its way back to Earth from the ISS.

The drills and rehearsal involved a full mockup of the Crew Dragon to help familiarize the team and the astronauts about the spacecraft, and learn how they will be extracted.

The teams were made aware how they were going be assisted to exit the capsule, and even simulated receiving medical attention that may be necessary when in a hypothetical emergency return from the ISS.

Although SpaceX and NASA have been working for years in various projects regarding space exploration, the recent event marked the first time that multiple SpaceX and NASA team were fully integrated to work aboard the ship and simulate the recovery process.

“Integrated tests like today’s are a crucial element in preparing human spaceflight missions,” Hurley said in a statement. “This opportunity allowed us to work with the recovery team and ensure the plans are solid for the Demo-2 mission.”

NASA astronaut Doug Hurley, along with teams from NASA and SpaceX, rehearse crew extraction from SpaceX’s Crew Dragon.
NASA | Bill Ingalls

On Thursday, August 15, two days after the capsule extraction rehearsal, NASA, once more, posted photos from their extraction rehearsal operations.

This time, the team had involved a real operating helicopter in simulating the following protocols, in the instance where astronauts require immediate airlift to land-based medical facilities for intensive care.

According to Ted Mosteller, the recovery director for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, performing these complete recovery drills will help better prepare the team and astronauts in the event of an unfortunate accident.

Furthermore, it will help both the agency and company to work seamlessly with one another, ensuring a more positive outcome if ever the time comes, by making every member aware of their roles and responsibilities.

“We’re making sure that the team integrates together – that’s a key to any successful mission,” Mosteller said. “We worked on successfully doing what we need to do to take care of the crew once they return to Earth.”

The NASA-SpaceX extraction rehearsal took place at the Trident Basin in Cape Canaveral, Florida aboard GO Searcher, one of two East Coast recovery vessels owned by SpaceX

GO Searcher is the ship that SpaceX uses to recover the Crew Dragon astronauts and spacecraft after splashing down in the ocean.

Notably, the Searcher has its medical facilities onboard, but they are only meant to rehabilitate astronauts to adjust from half a year in microgravity to full Earth gravity.

If all goes according to plan, Crew Dragon will launch from Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken left, and Doug Hurley board the SpaceX GO Searcher ship at the Trident Basin in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on August 13, 2019, to rehearse extracting astronauts from SpaceX’s Crew Dragon.
NASA | Bill Ingalls

Significantly, SpaceX is the first space exploration company to devise rockets intended for reuse. In other words, Crew Dragon will be used for several other occasions instead of the traditional and costly single-use spacecraft.

Accordingly, SpaceX chose to splash down back to Earth when it makes its return. That is why both astronauts and spacecraft must be retrieved from the ocean.

Though critics have questioned this method of returning astronauts from space since it’s been decades since it was used. NASA astronauts used to land in the ocean via parachutes during the Gemini, Apollo, and Skylab missions of the 1960s and ‘70s. Once the Space Shuttle started flying in the 1980s, all astronauts have returned to solid ground when coming back from space.

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