This is SpaceX’s very first human crew

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This is SpaceX’s very first human crew

[Loren] This is what the very near future of the American human spaceflight program looks like. - [Man] Ready for visors? - [Announcer] Two, one, zero, and liftoff! The final liftoff of Atlantis! - It's been nearly eight years since NASA astronauts have launched to space from American soil. On July 8th, 2011, the last flight of the space shuttle took off from Florida, and since then, NASA has been relying on Russia to send its astronauts to space. 2019 may finally be the year that NASA astronauts launch from the US once again. But this time, things will be a little different. Two US aerospace companies, SpaceX and Boeing, have been developing their own capsules to ferry NASA astronauts to and from the

International Space Station. It's part of a new initiative for NASA known as the Commercial Crew Program. The idea, have private companies, not NASA, design, build and launch the spacecraft that transport astronauts. SpaceX is poised to beat Boeing to the punch here. They've been working on a new capsule called the Crew Dragon. It's a variant of the cargo capsule that they already use to send supplies to and from the International Space Station. But this one has to carry people. And in 2019, it could carry the very first commercial crew to space on board SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX invited us to their headquarters in Hawthorne, California so that we could meet the two people they'll be keeping alive. Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. They're two veteran fliers at NASA who have both flown on the space shuttle.

They're also good friends who were in each other's weddings. And all that time together pays dividends. - We've worked together so long that there's a part of the training that we don't have to worry about. A lot of crews, when they come together, and you're laughing at that, but it is important for us. - So true. - I already know what Doug's responses are gonna be in a lot of different situations. And those aren't extra words I need to put into the communication. He can just glance at me, and know what my status is. - [Loren] Doug and Bob don't see huge differences between training for Crew Dragon and training for the shuttle. It's all about learning to interact with the vehicle, launching to space, docking with the Space Station, un-docking, and coming back to Earth. But there are a few perks that come with a private company.

The thing that I have seen that's different is that when we did shuttle things we would say, hey, I keep screwing up this procedure. Can we change the procedure so no one screws it up ever again? They're like, oh that would be really hard, we gotta talk to 100 people and figure all that out. And so here, when we need to change something, you know, they can turn on a dime and get a suitcase for the next mission or the next simulation that we go off and do. - One crucial difference, SpaceX is in charge of everything, from the training regimen to the design of the spacesuit. And the suits are certainly sleek. They're one-piece outfits made of Teflon and a material called Nomex. They're not designed for spacewalks but they'll keep the astronauts alive if something causes air to leak from the capsule. Both

Bob and Doug have suits custom fitted to their physiques. - I think we've got so much experience with them right now that putting them on and putting them off is a pretty smooth operation for us and so, I think that part, that's been really cool to see. - You know, we've kind of been here since basically those suits were just drawings. We've been working with this company and so to see it go from a drawing to actually being a no kidding pressure suit that we would wear in space here pretty soon is pretty neat. - [Announcer] Three, two, one. - And this is SpaceX's vehicle. So it's SpaceX's job to train the astronauts for the ride. That's why the company has built another type of Crew Dragon, the one behind me. But this one will never see space. It's used to simulate what the trip to and from the

ISS will be like and what could happen along the way. Today, we're going to watch the two astronauts carry out a regular docking simulation. They'll go through the steps of the capsule reaching the ISS and if all goes well, there should actually be minimal input from the crew. - [Man] Here we go. - A nominal mission, a normal mission if you would, it'll be more automated than even the space shuttle was. - [Loren] This is Michael Good a former astronaut who works as a liaison between the NASA astronaut office and the Commercial Crew Program. - So the crew is mainly in a monitoring task. But they're monitoring to know when they need to take over, not only for their own safety, but also for mission success. You know, to have a better chance of getting to the station and docking. - [Man]

Increase is complete and nominal. - [Loren] When the astronauts do need to control the Crew Dragon they have a very modern set of inputs to work with. - [Michael] The shuttle had over 2,000 switches and circuit breakers in the vehicle and designed in the 70s. And so each switch did a very specific function. And here there's just many fewer buttons and some touchscreen displays that you can do much more on that. It's much more like your phone or your iPad. - [Man] And Dragon, you are go for suits off, 4.103, all sections. - [Loren] SpaceX also has unique plans for how it will board the Crew Dragon. The company hopes to put the astronauts on board and then fuel the rocket just 30 minutes before taking off. Typically, crewed vehicles have been fueled well before astronauts get on board.

It's a safety precaution, since fueling is considered a dangerous process. In fact, one of SpaceX's Falcon 9s exploded during a fueling procedure in 2016. (eerie music) But SpaceX likes this method, called Load-and-Go. The Falcon 9 uses super cold propellants and the sooner it flies after loading them, the less time they have to warm up and boil away. So, keeping the propellants cold improves the performance of the rocket. SpaceX has been working with NASA over the last year to get Load-and-Go approved. And ultimately NASA will allow it if SpaceX demonstrates that it's safe on five missions. - We got to sit through maybe four and a half hours of review up at headquarters where the program manager talked through all those challenges that are out there and how they're resolving all of them.

That was really helpful for us just to kinda see the level of effort that the NASA team puts into place of making sure that things like Load-and-Go, that might be new and novel, still get the same level of scrutiny of every other NASA or space flight system. - [Loren] The Commercial Crew Program is a big experiment for NASA. The agency is giving up a lot of the control it usually has over spacecraft. These new vehicles will be designed, built, and owned by SpaceX and Boeing. That way the private companies can use them later for profit. For instance, SpaceX might want to sell rides on the Crew Dragon to paying space tourists. It's an opportunistic move for NASA too. This way, SpaceX and Boeing shoulder some of the development costs. And saving money is key at NASA, since there's not a whole lot of budget to go around.

All in all, it could open a whole new era in the space industry where private companies become the primary gatekeepers to space, not governments. Right now Bob and Doug's launch is very tentatively set for June 2019. SpaceX still needs to fly its Crew Dragon without people first and then it must prove out its emergency abort system. Only then, when NASA says so, will Bob and Doug fly. As intimidating as that sounds, Bob and Doug say their friends and family are excited for them to be the first to try this vehicle out. - We're both in the situation where our spouses also work at NASA. They know that, you know, NASA is gonna look into all the details and really make sure that they're comfortable with us flying on that rocket. And they have confidence in that system. - [Loren] For

Bob it's not about SpaceX or Boeing building ships. It's about bringing the American human space program back to American soil. - When I go and talk to schoolchildren and explain, you could go to Kazakhstan, you could see a Soyuz launch, that's how we get to Space Station it's just very different than when your family goes on spring break to see a rocket launch off the Florida coast. And so I would be happy to be on either vehicle just to have that opportunity again.
This is SpaceX’s very first human crew This is SpaceX’s very first human crew Reviewed by Admin on 6:19 AM Rating: 5

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