SpaceX sends its manageable space capsule to the ISS for the first time

When SpaceX takes off with a doll to the ISS on Saturday, a new chapter in space travel begins. For if the flight runs smoothly, the first astronauts will be launched into space this year with a private space capsule.

SpaceX spacecraft Crew Dragon and the Falcon 9 rocket stand side by side in hangar

The SpaceX spacecraft “Crew Dragon” will fly to the ISS on Saturday, the 2.3.

Photo: SpaceX

Within just a few years, SpaceX has become one of the most important and recognized service providers in the space transportation business. Now company founder and managing director Elon Musk has received the first permission from NASA to have his manageable space capsule “Crew Dragon” launched to the ISS. Already on the 2nd of March the test flight should take place. Also on board: a life-size doll that will function as a dummy test.

SpaceX focuses on “Crew Dragon” space capsule efficiency

Especially with regard to technology, SpaceX has come to the forefront of its development Space capsule made to work efficiently and sustainably. In this way not only the costs for future missions should be significantly reduced. Rather, the environment is likely to be protected by various innovations.

It is noticeable in the first place that the “Crew Dragon” has a diverse range of functions. It can be rebuilt to accommodate up to 7 astronauts on manned space flights or to serve as a research lab and transportation pod for cargo. Thanks to the “SuperDraco” rocket engines, it should be possible to dock the space capsule in a controlled manner and to be able to land precisely on Earth when returning. Furthermore, the fluid drives serve as a rescue system, should serious errors occur during the flight. The “Crew Dragon” is protected by an impregnated protective layer called PICA-X, which can withstand temperatures of more than 1600 degrees Celsius.

Reusable space capsule

Almost as important as the high-quality technology is the ecological aspect, which brings the space capsule from SpaceX with it. Unlike previous space capsules, it is reusable and must be overhauled after ten flights. This results in two not insignificant factors. On the one hand, it requires significantly less raw materials because fewer space capsules are needed. On the other hand, there is no danger that landed space capsules continue to pollute the environment in the future. So far, capsules were often landed on the return to the sea, where they sank to the bottom. Thus, there is a so-called “cemetery of the spaceships” in the South Pacific. More than 250 spaceships or space capsules have been sunk in the area over the last decades – along with ecological consequences.

Manned flights by private companies to ISS later this year possible

The crew’s test flight Dragon “to the ISS could be groundbreaking. If the flight is as planned and there are no difficulties, the first manned flights from SpaceX to the ISS could take place in July this year and transport two American astronauts to the space station. The project is supported and co-financed by NASA’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) Program, which promotes the development of private aerospace companies.

At the beginning of the program, besides SpaceX, Blue Origin, The United Launch Alliance and the Sierra Nevada Corporation and the Paragon Space Development Corporation were involved and provided with funding. During the development phase, the results were evaluated and some companies were removed from the project, until ultimately only SpaceX and Boeing were part of the CCDev program.

The battle over private space flights

That NASA would in the future relying on private companies to enable flights to the ISS has a volatile background. Already in 2011, the US space shuttle program had been declared over due to cost reasons. Since then, the US has relied on Russian Soyuz rockets to bring their astronauts to the ISS. As the contract with Russia expires in November of this year, Nasa urgently needs alternatives.

This is where Boeing comes in alongside SpaceX. The aircraft manufacturer has also developed a reusable spacecraft with the CST-100 Starliner. First manned test flights of both companies will follow this year. If the test flight of SpaceX runs smoothly, the two American astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will most likely be the first humans to fly to the ISS with a private space capsule.