What was a SpaceX Crew Dragon doing in Port Canaveral?
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — It appears a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft had come to Port Canaveral. Affixed to the back of Go Searcher vessel that had arrived in port on Saturday, Feb. 24. The “capsule” appeared to sport the side-mounted SuperDraco thrusters – but what was it really?
NASA and U.S. Air Force parajumpers and other pararescue personnel need to learn the ins and outs of the new Crew Dragon spacecraft prior to the capsule’s first flight, which now looks to take place sometime in 2019.
During past exercises, SpaceX, NASA and Air Force personnel have used the Crew Dragon Trainer so as to help them when the time comes to get astronauts out of the spacecraft after a mission to the International Space Station.
In 2017, the trainer was put through its paces at the Indian River Lagoon near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida so as to allow U.S. Air Force pararescue personnel and others to learn techniques for getting aboard the spacecraft and assisting the astronauts on board. Although SFI has not received official confirmation, it appears that the trainer might have been put to use again recently.
When crews return to Earth aboard Crew Dragon, and in the case of emergencies, time is of the essence. Therefore astronauts who would fly on these spacecraft (under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner is also being prepped for flights to the orbiting lab) and those who would come to their aid – need to repeatedly practice the procedures. This requires lots of practice in an array of conditions.
Under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program SpaceX is working to use its Crew Dragon spacecraft to send astronauts to and from the International Space Station. SpaceX constructed the trainer and it was modified by the Prototype Lab at KSC to the company’s specifications and has markings and has been molded to the same specifications as an actual Crew Dragon capsule.
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.