SpaceX Tests Emergency System for Manned Space Flight
May 8, 2015 Leave a comment
Space Exploration Technologies, better known as SpaceX, has begun testing on a new system to transport humans into space. Currently, SpaceX uses their Dragon capsule to fly cargo to the International Space Station. They are working to develop a similar system for manned flights in order to break Russia’s monopoly on manned flights.
After NASA retired the space shuttle program in 2011, the Russians stepped up to handle transporting humans from Earth to the station. They currently charge NASA $63 million per person to fly astronauts to the ISS, utilizing their Soyuz system.
A recent test at Cape Canaveral witnessed a modified Dragon capsule being launched 1.4 miles into the air over the Atlantic Ocean. The capsule deployed parachutes and splashed down shortly thereafter. The goal was to test an ejection system for future flights, which would allow astronauts to eject the capsule in case of emergencies. Since the current Dragon system is rocket based, it cannot be landed like the old orbiter system NASA used for the space shuttle program, hence the need for something akin to an eject system. In fact, the space shuttle didn’t have an ejection system, according to NASA astronaut Eric Boe, who flew the orbiter twice on shuttle missions. This new system lands like the Apollo modules did, by splashing into the ocean.
The emergency system will be tested again as early as this summer with a larger rocket for a higher altitude, faster test of the system. The recent test had no humans in the capsule, although it was heavily instrumented and did feature a crash-test dummy. The capsule will return to SpaceX labs in California for tests, though the same capsule will be launched on the next test as well.
If these tests go well, and stay on track, NASA hopes to be using American systems to take astronauts to space by 2017.