NASA has put SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule to test at the Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio. Crew Dragon is the crewed version of Elon Musk’s aerospace company’s robotic Dragon cargo ship designed to carry humans into space.
According to NASA, its In-Space Propulsion Facility boasts a massive thermal vacuum chamber that is the only facility in the world that can perform full-scale upper-stage launch vehicles and rocket engines testing using high-altitude simulations.
During the process of testing, the capsule will be placed in the thermal vacuum chamber that will subject it to the vacuum of space, as well as extreme temperatures, to ensure that it can survive harsh conditions. The US space agency has also published an image of the capsule put into the testing chamber on its official website.
After all the testing is done, Crew Dragon will be shifted to Kennedy Space Center in Florida ahead of its first flight.
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is among one of two commercial space taxis that the US space agency will use to send astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The other one is Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner. Both the spacecraft have been designed to carry up to seven astronauts in one go. While Crew Dragon will be launched on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets, Starliner will get launched onboard Atlas V rockets developed by the United Launch Alliance. The test launch will happen under NASA’s Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contract.
The unmanned Crew Dragon and Starliner test flights are currently set to take place in August of this year from two different launch pads at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. If everything goes well, Boeing’s crewed Starliner flight might likely get a November launch, while SpaceX’s Crew Dragon will make its first crewed launch in December of this year.