2017 could be the year when private companies would, for the very first time, ferry astronauts to and from the ISS (international space station).
It’s already successfully tested models of its Dragon space capsule – a vessel designed specifically for shuttling cargo and eventually astronauts to the international Space Station.
The team behind the reusable capsule describes it as “a fully autonomous spacecraft that can also be monitored and controlled by on-board astronauts and SpaceX mission control in Hawthorne, CA”.
The future is here, or that’s how it seems while taking in the newly released images of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule.
“With four windows, passengers can take in views of Earth, the Moon, and the wider Solar System right from their seats”, the company said, in a statement on its website. Ames scientists think the Red Dragon can set down without any parachutes, using only the Super Draco engines that are being developed for the emergency abort system on manned Dragon capsules. SpaceX stated that, “This system also enables Dragon v2 to land propulsively on Earth or another planet with the precision of a helicopter, making possible interplanetary trips that would otherwise be constrained by ocean landings”.
In the concept, Red Dragon would touch down near the planned 2020 Mars rover after hitching a ride with SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket. For its part, SpaceX is hardly defenseless – it plays the Washington political game as aggressively as anyone, and its founder, Elon Musk, has crossed the line on occasion, particularly with his unsubstantiated accusations of malfeasance on the part of Air Force officials. SpaceX rockets have occasionally failed in the past, with three versions of the Falcon I going down in flames.
A NASA official said last week that the proposal, called “Red Dragon”, had not yet been approved.