If you're not yet hyped about the upcoming first crewed flight of SpaceX's astronaut taxi, a new video could help get you there.
SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk posted the 2.5-minute animation on Twitter on Dec. 29, 2019. It takes viewers through many of the key phases of the Demo-2 mission, during which the company's Crew Dragon capsule will ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS) for the first time.
SpaceX will be cleared to prep for Demo-2 in earnest after Crew Dragon passes a key in-flight test of its abort system, which is designed to get astronauts out of harm's way in the event of a launch emergency. The in-flight abort test is currently scheduled to take place on Jan. 11 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Related: In Photos: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at SpaceX's Crew Dragon
The capsule that will fly Demo-2 should be ready to go shortly thereafter, Musk said in another Dec. 29 tweet: "Crew Dragon should be physically ready & at the Cape [Cape Canaveral, Florida] in Feb, but completing all safety reviews will probably take a few more months."
Demo-2 will lift off atop a Falcon 9 rocket and carry NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the ISS for an eight-day stay. The capsule will then bring the space flyers back to Earth for a parachute-aided ocean splashdown.
The end of the video shows the final stages of the capsule's descent, with a ship — likely the recovery vessel that will pluck Crew Dragon out of the sea — bobbing below. There's an interesting tidbit at the very beginning of the animation as well: An astronaut getting ready to board Crew Dragon gets out of a car with "falcon-wing" doors — presumably a Tesla Model X, which features this unusual design.
This detail shouldn't come as a surprise; Musk runs Tesla, so it makes sense that he'd want to cross-pollinate in this way. And he's done it before: The February 2018 debut flight of SpaceX's huge Falcon Heavy rocket launched a Tesla carrying a spacesuit-clad mannequin dubbed Starman into orbit around the sun.
If Demo-2 goes well, Crew Dragon can start to fly operational missions to and from the ISS for NASA. SpaceX is contracted to fly six of these flights with the Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon under a September 2014 deal, which awarded the company $2.6 billion.
Boeing got a similar, $4.2 billion contract at the same time. The aerospace giant will fulfill this deal with its CST-100 Starliner capsule, which launched for the first time last month. That mission, the uncrewed Orbital Flight Test (OFT), was supposed to dock with the ISS. But a glitch with Starliner's onboard timing system prevented that rendezvous, and the capsule zoomed around Earth by itself for two days before coming down for a successful touchdown on Dec. 22.
Crew Dragon aced its version of OFT, the Demo-1 mission, in March of last year.
- SpaceX's Crew Dragon Demo-1 Test Flight in Pictures
- SpaceX's Starship Project Not Affecting Crew Dragon Flights for NASA, Elon Musk Says
- SpaceX Fires Up Rocket in Prep for 1st Astronaut Launch with Crew Dragon (Photo)
Mike Wall's book about the search for alien life, "Out There (opens in new tab)" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), is out now. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.(opens in new tab)
Fun 3 minute video here :)