SpaceX becomes the first-ever private organization to launch astronauts to the International Space Station. The effort is part of the massive Dragon Crew Mission, a partnership project between SpaceX and NASA.
The same focus on the development of the capabilities of human spaceflight. On November 16, 4:27 PM PST or 7:27 PM EST, astronauts Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and Michael Hopkins of NASA and Soichi Noguchi of JAXA left the 39-A launchpad. The event takes place at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center, which is ISS bound.
The human launch project of SpaceX was part of the major Commercial Crew program. NASA was to select two private organizations to build proper systems to launch astronauts to the ISS from the US’s land. The two organizations finally on-board were Boeing and SpaceX.
So, both the companies started their system creation work in 2014. The Falcon 9 rocket and the Dragon Capsule were the first to obtain NASA’s human flight certification earlier in 2020. These space vehicles successfully underwent the Demo-2 test to reach the ISS with two astronauts.
The initial success of the Dragon Crew Mission
Getting to this point in the Dragon Crew Mission was difficult for SpaceX as it meant passing several milestones. Two of the toughest challenges in the process were a rendezvous mission and a safety mission. The first one was an automatic unscrewed ISS mission. While the other included a launchpad as well as a post-launch abort test.
After that, during the Demo-1 mission, there was the use of both automatic and manual control. The automatic software was controlling the launch, landing, and docking. On the other hand, the manual control was to show that there is an availability of a Plan B.
Till now, the movement of Crew-1 looks favorable after the perfect launch from Florida. Moreover, the Flacon 9 rocket was the reason for the first-stage booster’s successful recovery. The Dragon crew’s ‘resilience’ departed from the Falcon 9 second stage just 10 minutes post liftoff.
The journey of the Dragon capsule
There will be a 27-hour journey along the orbit before the Dragon meets the ISS for the docking. Once the docking is entirely over, the astronauts will go in separate directions to begin their applicable duty, say at the space station. Their duty is going to get over around June 2021.
Out of the four astronauts who are part of the Dragon Crew Mission, three have already been to ISS before. However, for astronaut Victor Glover, it is his debut space mission. After reaching the ISS, the four astronauts will meet with the other team already on-duty.
The team includes Kate Rubins of NASA and cosmonauts Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and Ryzhikov of Roscosmos. Therefore, the total staff strength on ISS will be seven. This figure is undoubtedly more than the six people team concept of NASA. However, it seems that space biggies want more people to work on the observations right now. Moreover, there are people required there for regular maintenance of the space station.
Since the last NASA Shuttle project in 2011, it is the first time that such a launch event is taking place as part of regular operation. Therefore, it is an official comeback of the human spaceflight capabilities of the USA. Moreover, the teams hope that this will successfully count as the first human flight mission by Dragon and SpaceX.