SpaceX's first-ever manned space mission happening soon, says Elon Musk
Just recently, SpaceX demonstrated the capabilities of the launch escape system built into Crew Dragon, its dedicated spacecraft for manned flights. The test marked a major milestone for the company and will eventually clear the path for a taxi service to the International Space Station (ISS). And, going by CEO Elon Musk's latest remarks, the first of these flights could be happening soon.
Manned Crew Dragon flight between April and June
Soon after the escape system test, Musk spoke at a press conference and confirmed that the manned flight of Crew Dragon via Falcon 9 will take place in the second quarter of 2020. Specifically, the billionaire claimed that the launch would be conducted sometime between April and June - shortly after giving the final touches to the hardware of the craft in February/March.
This will be SpaceX's first manned mission
The upcoming mission will be the first-ever manned mission for SpaceX, which has only flown cargo to the International Space Station till now. But, do note that it will be more like a demonstrator; the crew will be flown to the ISS and back to check the craft's control and communication systems and validate its overall suitability for regular manned flights to the lab.
Astronauts will spend a few days on ISS
As part of the manned flight, dubbed Demo-2, NASA and SpaceX are hoping to send at least two astronauts to the ISS. The idea is to let them stay there for a few days, but NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine recently announced that they could also make the mission longer so that the astronauts could try/test some additional things that were not planned before.
Also, it's first manned mission from US soil since 2011
The launch of SpaceX's manned flight will also bring back human spaceflight capabilities back to the US. Since the retirement of the Shuttle program in 2011, NASA has not carried out any manned flights from American soil. In fact, the space agency has solely been relying on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft for sending astronauts to the space station.
Here's what Bridenstine said about returning to manned flight
"This is great opportunity for us to once again lead. And this time, when we lead, we're doing it differently than we've ever done it before: NASA is going to be a customer," Bridenstine said, adding that "We want Elon to have lots of customers."