Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, recently confirmed that the company is preparing for the crewed launch of its Crew Dragon spacecraft. The tech mogul made the statement after SpaceX completed the abort test of its spacecraft on Sunday.
On Jan. 19, SpaceX launched the Crew Dragon capsule through its Falcon 9 rocket. Shortly after taking off, the capsule separated from the rocket, which was then deliberately destroyed. The Crew Dragon then landed safely in the ocean with the help of parachutes.
Success of Crew Dragon's Abort Test
The test flight, dubbed as an abort test, was a critical component of SpaceX's assessment regarding the capabilities of Crew Dragon. It was carried out to test and demonstrate how the spacecraft would break away from its launcher in the event of an emergency. "We are purposefully failing a launch vehicle, to make sure our abort system works," Kathy Lueders, the manager for NASA's Commercial Crew Program said in a statement prior to the launch. "That's a very, very different way for us to formally conduct a mission."
With the success of the abort test, SpaceX is now preparing for the first crewed spaceflight for Crew Dragon. The company had previously announced that NASA veteran astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behknen have been selected to pilot the spacecraft.
Crew Dragon's Demo 2 Mission
According to Musk, Crew Dragon's human spaceflight, known as the Demo 2 mission, could take place during the second quarter of 2020. This means the mission might happen after March. Of course, further tests will still be conducted before Crew Dragon's piloted launch.
"We're highly confident that the hardware will be ready in [the first quarter], most likely end of February but no later than March," he said according to Space.com. "And we think it appears probable that the first crewed launch would occur in the second quarter."
If all goes well for SpaceX, the company could soon fulfill its promise to NASA as one of the agency's commercial partners. For years, both NASA and SpaceX have been hoping that the Crew Dragon will serve as the main spacecraft that will transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station.