In July 2011, NASA permanently withdrew its space shuttle program, with the objective that private companies took charge of taking their astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). The ones chosen for this task were Boeing and SpaceX, who today have not even been able to successfully complete their test missions.
This has caused NASA to have to rely on the Russians and send their astronauts using the Soyuz capsule, which will cost them $ 80 million for each astronaut.
Today, after several delays, explosion included, and a bit of silence around the issue, Elon Musk released a new video showing how the next launch of Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon will look like during 2020, in what will be the expected first mission manned towards the ISS.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 30, 2019
The hard task of launching astronauts from US rockets on American soil
In the video, we can see the ideal scenario, where a couple of astronauts, in this case, Mike Hopkins and Victor Glover, board the Crew Dragon capsule/spacecraft to embark on the journey to the ISS. The Crew Dragon would be taken to space by means of a Falcon 9 rocket and the objective is for the capsule to be attached to the ISS, something that it already made a few months ago but where it could be screwed correctly.
According to Musk, the Crew Dragon will be “physically” ready in February 2020, but before it is launched, it must complete all safety checks and ground tests. For this reason, it is expected that there will be a new test mission named Demo-2 in May.
The Demo-2 mission will not be manned and its success will depend on scheduling the next mission, which would already take astronauts to the ISS. But first, they must demonstrate that during the second test mission everything went perfect and there is no risk to the astronauts.
A point that attracts attention is that SpaceX continues to propose that the manned Dragon capsule land in the sea, where they will seek to fall into the huge network of their ship “Ms Tree”. In the case of Boeing, this task is scheduled to occur on land with the help of huge airbags that serve to cushion the fall, something that had never been done before and that made Boeing the first American manufacturer to achieve it.
In short, today we have no date for Boeing or SpaceX to send the first astronauts to the ISS, we only know that it will be in 2020. SpaceX already has it clearer, first with a new test mission and then the manned; while Boeing, after the failure in the coupling of the previous mission, has not given a new date for a new test or for the mission with astronauts on board.