SpaceX is gearing to a great milestone for human flight.
Elon Musk & # 39; s company aims to fly the first demonstration mission of its Crew Dragon capsule to the International Space Station (ISS) on March 2.
This flight, known as Demo-1, becomes unclear. But if all goes well, Crew Dragon will probably carry astronauts to and from the circulating lab for the first time this summer. [Take a Walk Through SpaceX’s Crew Dragon]
Here's what you need to know about Crew Dragon, Demo-1 and the short-term future for human spaceflight.
What is Crew Dragon?
SpaceX has developed Crew Dragon under a multibillion-dollar commercial crew contract with NASA. The agency signed a similar agreement with Boeing, working on a capsule called CST-100 Starliner.
The goal is to return orbital human spaceflight to American soil. American astronauts have relied on Russian Soyuz rockets and spacecraft to get to and from the ISS since July 2011, when NASA retired its spacecraft.
Much money has flown from NASA to its Russian counterpart, Roscosmos, as a result; seats aboard the three-person Soyuz spacecraft are currently selling about $ 80 million.
Crew Dragon will launch on SpaceX's workhorse Falcon 9 rocket, a two-stage vehicle with a reusable first stage. Starliner, which is scheduled to make its weed girl flying to the ISS sometime in April, will be lifted by United Launch Alliance Atlas V rockets that cannot be reused.
How is it different from Cargo Dragon
Crew Dragon is a modified, upgraded version of SpaceX's robot technology Dragon Dragon Capsule, which since 2012 has flown effortlessly resupply missions to the ISS.
Crew Dragon has many astronaut-related features that its robotic cousins lack – for example, seven of them – windows, fancy touch-screen monitors, a life support system and an escape system. The Escape system, designed to damage the Crew Dragon in the event of an emergency, consists of eight SpaceX SuperDraco engines built into the body of the capsule.
There are also other important differences between the two vehicles. For example, Dragon has traditional solar cells, but Crew Dragon's solar panels cover the spacecraft's trunk and require no action to activate.
Both Dragon variants are designed to be recyclable, and SpaceX has already reflowed several of the cargo vessels on ISS missions. But every Crew Dragon won't fly multiple ISS missions to NASA, at least not, SpaceX representatives have said
What will Demo-1 do?
((VideoProviderTag | jwplaDemo-1 will start from historic start complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. SpaceX is targeting March 2 for liftoff, but that date is far from set in stone.
Mission is designed To test almost all Crew Dragon's critical equipment, from its automatic approach and docking gears to its life support and re-entry systems, SpaceX staff gently monitor the performance of these systems during the approximately 2-week mission, ending with The parachute-supported splashdown in the Pacific  But a successful return to Earth will not notify Crew Dragon of its readiness to carry crew. SpaceX will also perform an unclear "abortion test" test with the capsule in June to ensure that the escape system works
If everything goes well with both of these flights, Demo-2 gets cleared for liftoff, this mission that could start as early as July will take NASA ast the riders Bob Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the ISS for about a week's stay.
Operation crew missions to the groundbreaking NASA laboratory would follow the successful completion of Demo-2
Prelude to Starship?
If SpaceX's vision holds, the Crew Dragon will not fly too long – and neither will the Dragon or Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets ship.
SpaceX builds a new doomed space escape system consisting of a 100-passenger spaceship called Starship and a giant rocket called Super Heavy. The reusable duo will carry people to and from Mars, the moon and other distant destinations, Musk has said, and doing whatever SpaceX needs, from launching satellites to tidying up space.
Starship and Super Heavy will also do some working closer to the Earth's surface, ferrying people on super-fast point-to-point tours around the globe.
Mike Wall's book about the search for alien life "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate) is out now. Follow him on Twitter @ michaeldwall . Follow us @Spacedotcom or Facebook. Originally published on Space.com.