SpaceX Crew Access Arm: Bridge to the Crew Dragon

Christopher Davidson
March 1, 2019

The program involves NASA working with two partners, SpaceX and Boeing, to build revolutionary spacecraft to bring astronauts to the space station and low orbits around Earth.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule will make its debut when it launches atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center early on Saturday.

Early on Friday, Musk, who is also chief executive officer of electric carmaker Tesla Inc, tweeted a photo of the inside of Crew Dragon capsule with a mannequin nicknamed Ripley strapped inside. Since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011, the US has been relying on Russian Soyuz rockets, launched from Kazakhstan, to get astronauts to the ISS.

The launch will occur from the historic Pad 39A where Apollo left for the Moon and Atlantis began the very last shuttle ascent.

"It's been a long eight years", said Bob Cabana, the Kennedy Space Center's director and a former astronaut.

Onboard will be a dummy pilot Ripley named, after the main character of the 1979 movie "Alien", packed with sensors to monitor the flight.

These will record the forces and the environment experienced inside the capsule. It was set up by entrepreneur Elon Musk with the specific intention of taking people beyond Earth.

SpaceX vice president for build and flight reliability, Hans Koenigsmann, told reporters on Thursday that the company has completed "an incredible amount of testing to make sure that everything is safe and ready to go".

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We've seen SpaceX's Crew Dragon hurdle multiple delays and survive the scrutiny of a flight readiness review, and now we're finally ready to watch the capsule escape from this planet with the help of a Falcon 9 rocket.

"There is nothing more important for us than this endeavour, and we really appreciate the opportunity from Nasa to do this". It's gone through many iterations down the years but now has an extensive flight history. It also has four parachutes instead of the freighter's three to control the descent to Earth.

At the beginning of past year, NASA announced SpaceX and Boeing would complete test flights for their commercial crew spacecraft, Crew Dragon and Starliner, in August.

Nasa is essentially now contracting out crew transport to SpaceX.

The commercial spaceflight company has worked closely with NASA engineers to design a capsule that meets the agency's rigorous safety standards.

"We want to maximise our learning so we can get this stuff ready so that when we put crew on, we're ready to go do a real crew mission, and it'll be the right safety for our crews".

William Gerstenmaier, the associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA, said at a news conference last week that the launch "is an absolutely critical first step".

"When you're here, right, there's a pride in the country".

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