SpaceX Crew Dragon: first astronaut mission may take place this summer
Static fire test moves company one step closer to practice launch next month
SpaceX is on course to send astronauts to the International Space Station in the summer after it completed a successful fire-up test on Thursday.
The US aerospace firm confirmed in a tweet that it had conducted a “static fire test”, in which the rocket’s engines are fired but the vehicle does not take off, of its Crew Dragon space craft at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The test took place at Launch Complex 39A, the “historic” site where Nasa’s Apollo missions and Space Shuttle programme launched from.
Though SpaceX said the test had been completed, suggesting few - if any - problems, CBS reporter William Harwood claims the firing “did not run full duration” and a retest may be scheduled in the coming days.
SpaceX is widely believed to be targeting an unmanned launch of its Crew Dragon capsule aboard one of its Falcon 9 rockets on 16 February, according to Ars Technica.
However, company insiders told the tech news site that the mission may take place a week later.
If all goes well, SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk said in an emoji-filled tweet that the company will be on course to send two Nasa astronauts aboard the Crew Dragon to the ISS as early as this summer.
The crew module is based on the aerospace firm’s Dragon capsule, which has been used on 16 Nasa missions to deliver food and equipment to astronauts aboard the ISS.
It’s hoped that the capsule can be used to replace the ageing Russian Soyuz vehicle, a 50-year-old spacecraft currently used to ferry astronauts to the ISS, The Guardian explains.