SpaceX Dragon mission “a grand slam”
That from SpaceX CEO and chief designer Elon Musk in a press conference today following the successful splashdown of the first commercial spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station.
The SpaceX Dragon’s demo mission marks NASA’s return to flight following the retirement of the Space Shuttle flight last year, and it opens a new era in sustainable, affordable human space flight. Most immediately, It opens the door to a 12-flight Space Station cargo delivery contract for SpaceX. The first flight could come as early as September.
Musk ran down the list of next technical milestones for SpaceX:
-Upgrading Dragon for astronauts.
-Developing propulsive landing capability for Dragon for helicopter-like touchdowns on land. “It’s the way spacecraft ought to land,” he said in the press conference.
-Propulsive landing abilities for the Falcon 9 launch rocket as well.
-Development of the Falcon Heavy, with two times the thrust of any other rocket in existence.
Tests of propulsive landings will begin this year, development of the Falcon Heavy next year. Musk said the first Dragon flights with propulsive landing capabilities could happen within the next three years.
“I’m just overwhelmed with joy for what occurred here,” said Musk. “It’s been ten years. To have done this and have it go so well is incredibly satisfying. We look forward to doing lots more missions in the future and continuing to upgrade the technology and push the frontier of space transportation.”