SpaceX's New Astronaut Walkway Represents a Step Toward Crewed Flight

SpaceX Installs Astronaut Walkway at Pad 39A
On Aug. 20, 2018, SpaceX installed an astronaut walkway at Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The walkway will allow astronauts to get from the launch tower to SpaceX's Crew Dragon spaceship.

SpaceX is another step closer to crewed flight.

On Monday (Aug. 20), the private spaceflight company installed an astronaut walkway at Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, the jumping-off point for SpaceX's new Crew Dragon spaceship.

The walkway is like the jetways that connect airport lounges and airliners. Astronauts will use the walkway to get from Pad 39A's tower to Crew Dragon, which will sit atop SpaceX's 230-foot-tall (70 meters) Falcon 9 rocket. [Photos: Behind-the-Scenes Look at SpaceX's Crew Dragon Spaceship]

Because the Falcon 9 is so tall, the walkway is pretty high up on the tower. Indeed, it's several stories higher than the one that allowed access to NASA's now-retired space shuttle orbiters, which once launched from Pad 39A (as did Saturn V moon rockets), according to Spaceflight Now. The shuttle walkway was installed about 195 feet (59 m) above the ground.

Another look at the astronaut-walkway installation at Pad 39A, which required a crane.

Both Crew Dragon and Starliner are reusable capsules capable of carrying seven passengers. But the vehicles will carry a maximum of four astronauts during the contracted ISS flights, NASA officials have said.

Earlier this month, NASA announced the astronauts who will break in the two private U.S. spaceships. Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will fly SpaceX's crewed demonstration mission, and Mike Hopkins and Victor Glover will take the first operational ISS flight, whenever that occurs. 

Eric Boe, Nicole Aunapu Mann and Chris Ferguson were chosen for Starliner's first crewed test mission, and Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada will be aboard the Boeing craft's first operational flight.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.