Updated: Apr 8, 2019
The Hawthorne-based company brings the country one step closer to transporting humans to and from the ISS.
By Joceline Rodriguez, Staff Writer
Dragon 2, a newly-designed spacecraft by SpaceX, will become the first privatized spacecraft ever to transport humans to and from the International Space Station if remaining test-flights succeed.
Earlier last month on March 2 2:49 a.m eastern time, the Dragon 2 capsule launched 260 miles above Earth’s surface from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It independently docked with the International Space Station a little more than a day later — and splashed down to Earth on March 8.
Although cooperatively funded between the U.S., Russia, Canada, Japan and 20 European countries, the U.S. has relied on Russian spacecrafts to get to the station since 2011, when NASA withdrew the last of their spacecrafts ending the Atlantis mission.
“It costs about $150-200 million per launch to get to the ISS using Russian spacecrafts,” explained Valley College Astronomy Professor and Planetarium Director David Falk. “That is why NASA wants to get back to the business of having spacecraft that we can rely on, to take people to and from the space station and/or anywhere else.”
During Demo 1 of the project, Crew Dragon carried a test-dummy (named Ripley) fitted with sensors around her head, neck and spine to gather data. SpaceX’s next phase — scheduled for July 2019 — will replace Ripley, with NASA veteran astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.
“These are all capabilities that lead to a day where we are re-launching American astronauts, on American rockets, from American soil,” said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We have the capability to now use the excess resources to do exploration, to go further, to go back to the moon sustainably, where we can stay at the moon and ultimately go on to Mars.”
The American-developed capsule also encompassed: a various range of sensors for atmospheric pressure readings; testing equipment for future operations; data and research tools; and more than 400 pounds of cargo.
"This is a good day — the first day of a new era for the next generation of space explorer," enthusiastically stated ISS Canadian astronaut David Saint Jacques.
"Our sincere congratulations to all Earthlings who have enabled the opening of this next chapter in space exploration,” tweeted American astronaut Anne McClain.
Dragon successfully completed phase one when it splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean using an enhanced parachute system. If phase two succeeds, NASA (in partnership with SpaceX) will use Dragon as prime transportation to the space station until 2024.