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SpaceX installs bridge that lets astronauts walk to its Crew Dragon rocket

August 30, 2018 7:19 PM
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The walkway to orbit: SpaceX installs the bridge astronauts will walk down before blasting off to the International Space Station in its Crew Dragon capsule

Elon Musk's rocket company has completed the installation of a Crew Access Arm that will serve as a walkway for astronauts boarding the Crew Dragon capsule.

Four astronauts will walk across the futuristic bridge from a crew access tower at the historic 39A launchpad at NASA's Kennedy Space Center to the Dragon, which will blast them into space.

Four astronauts will walk across the futuristic bridge from a crew access tower at the historic 39A launchpad at NASA's Kennedy Space Center to the Dragon, which will blast them into space.

SpaceX shared images of the newly constructed Crew Access Arm on Twitter.

'Crew access arm installed at Launch Complex 39A in Florida; will serve as a bridge for @NASA astronauts to board Crew Dragon,' SpaceX said in a tweet.

The firm is aiming for its first crewed flight in April 2019, while an uncrewed test flight will take place in November 2018.

SpaceX’s crew flight test will be led by astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, with plans to lift off from the Kennedy Space Center in April 2019.

Crew Dragon can hold up to seven astronauts at one time, but the manned mission will only include four men on board.

The Crew Dragon capsule will blast off from launchpad 39A atop a 230-feet-tall Falcon 9 rocket.

It will surely be a landmark moment for US space exploration, as it will signify the first human spaceflight mission since 2011, when NASA's Space Shuttle was retired.

The Space Shuttle was a reusable spacecraft that ferried astronauts to and from earth and the International Space Station.

After the Space Shuttle retired, the US was forced to rely on Russia for spacecraft that could transport astronauts to the ISS.

The capsule measures about 20 feet tall by 12 feet in diameter, and will carry up to 7 astronauts at a time.

The Crew Dragon features an advanced emergency escape system (which was tested earlier this year) to swiftly carry astronauts to safety if something were to go wrong, experiencing about the same G-forces as a ride at Disneyland.

It also has an Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) that provides a comfortable and safe environment for crew members.

Crew Dragon's displays will provide real-time information on the state of the spacecraft's capabilities, showing everything from Dragon's position in space, to possible destinations, to the environment on board.

Those CRS-2 Dragon missions will use 'propulsive' landings, where the capsule lands on a landing pad using its SuperDraco thrusters rather than splashing down in the ocean.

That will allow NASA faster access to the cargo returned by those spacecraft, and also build up experience for propulsive landings of crewed Dragon spacecraft.

Crew Dragon and Boeing's CST-100 Starliner will take the place of the now-defunct Spae Shuttle, as they each have crewed demonstration missions planned for later this year.

Even more historic, the spacecrafts will blast off from the same launchpad used for NASA's Apollo 11 mission, which landed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon.

The launchpad, which was built in 1967, was also where Apollo 13 launched into orbit.

The access arm has been in development for several months now, but was installed at the complex on Monday.

It hangs roughly 200ft above the ground - or about 70ft higher than where the former Space Shuttle access arm was constructed - and will be kept in pristine condition.

According to NASA, SpaceX continues to modify Launch Complex 39A from its earlier state, by removing over 500,000lbs of steel from the pad structure.

In addition to the Crew Dragon mission, SpaceX is also using 39A to send cargo to the ISS, as well as to launch commercial payloads.

The first SpaceX mission from the historic launchpad took place in February.

Before SpaceX is able to conduct its manned mission to the ISS, it has to complete an unmanned test misision.

For the manned demonstration, called DEMO-2, the Crew Dragon will dock and undock with the ISS and then return back to earth.

NASA will examine data from the flight and make sure that it meets certain safety and performance requirements.

This will determine whether or not the spacecraft is suitable for regular trips to the ISS in the future.

While uncrewed flight tests were not required, both Boeing and SpaceX have volunteered to perform them before adding astronauts.

‘This was above and beyond the NASA requirement in the contract,’ said Kathy Lueders, Commercial Crew Program manager at NASA Kennedy.

NASA launched its first space shuttle, Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-1), from the Kennedy Space Center on April 12, 1981.

In the three decades that followed, the space agency deployed a total of 135 missions from US soil.

With the upcoming tests, NASA is now closer than it has been in nearly a decade to launching astronauts from the US, aboard capsules made here at home.


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Comments - 1
by Germans R best

August 30, 2018 7:20 PM

What Elon has done with SpaceX is nothing short of...