On Friday, local time, U.S. space exploration technology company SpaceX released the first internal photos of its manned Dragon spacecraft. The company and NASA plan to launch their first manned launch within two months, the first time in nearly a decade that an American-made spacecraft has been launched from home.
SpaceX plans to launch a manned Dragon spacecraft in mid-to-late May, which will be the most important and historic launch in the company’s history. If the plan goes well, the manned Dragon’s Demo-2 mission could make SpaceX the first company in history to use privately built rockets and spacecraft to put humans into orbit.
What’s more, it will be the first time the U.S. has launched astronauts on home soil since the cancellation of NASA’s space shuttle program in 2011. Since then, the U.S. has relied on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to pick up its astronauts, carrying out a total of 34 missions, and is likely to buy a small number of extra seats for more than $85 million each.
Thanks to the success of the Commercial Astronaut program, NASA will soon be able to launch its own astronauts again, despite a delay of several years. Although Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft costs about $90 million per seat, or even more than the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, spaceX’s manned Dragon spacecraft could cost as little as $55 million, which could save NASA tens of millions of dollars in transporting astronauts.
Now, for the first time, SpaceX has released photos showing the interior of its first manned flight. Unsurprisingly, the photos show the real spacecraft and SpaceX’s simulator in Hawthorne, California, in almost identical locations.
Over the past 18 months, NASA astronauts assigned to SpaceX’s first manned mission have been trained almost never to learn how to operate the spacecraft. Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will support the historic first flight of the manned Dragon spacecraft, which has attracted countless attention.
SpaceX provided an interior view of the manned Dragon spacecraft when it debuted in The Demo-1 orbitin in March 2019, but at the time there were no manned spacecraft and no display and control modules installed on it, and the interior was incomplete. Now, NASA says the manned Dragon spacecraft is “conducting final tests and pre-launch processing” a few kilometers from the Kennedy Space Center launch site.
The process “opens up more simulations, final crew training and flight readiness reviews,” some of which could involve NASA’s Demo-2 astronauts landing the spacecraft for the first time and conducting a thorough check of the capsule, according to the report.
Meanwhile, at the 39A launch site at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), NASA posted a photo of SpaceX’s latest Falcon 9 rocket, which is scheduled to send NASA astronauts into space in about two months. The rocket uses a brand new booster and will attempt to land on the unmanned recovery ship OCISLY a few minutes after liftoff.
In short, SpaceX’s historic first manned launch is making rapid progress. NASA insists that the Launch Time of the Demo-2 will be “mid-to-late May” and is now only 6-8 weeks away.