SpaceX recently shared photos of Crew Dragon, the vessel that will carry astronauts into space sometime in 2017. SpaceX shows capsules undergoing pressurized stress tests, experiencing various temperature extremes, and other conditions the vessel might encounter during launch and reentry. The photos provide a glimpse of how humans will travel through space in the not too distant future.
SpaceX has already, for quite a while, supported NASA's cargo missions, but maintaining the safety of live crew members was another matter. Formerly, NASA was dependent on the Russian Space Program for this purpose. But NASA has recently unveiled the Crew Dragon, developed by SpaceX. Crew Dragon is NASA'a first vessel that supports crewed flight to the International Space Station (ISS). Crew Dragon is the crew carrying version of the upgraded Dragon 2 spacecraft. Crew Dragon is expected to restore America's capability to fly humans into orbit. Four of NASA's astronauts will be trained for these crewed commercial space flights.
SpaceX has also created metallic welded pressure vessels. According to SpaceX, the pressure vessel is "the primary structure of the spacecraft that protects astronauts during ascent, while in outer space, and during entry and landing, to provide a safe and controlled environment in which to travel and work." NASA has enthusiastically worked with private companies such as SpaceX, founded by the inexhaustible Elon Musk. NASA has also worked with SpaceX and others on ISS resupply missions involving unmanned spacecraft, so these companies can become more advanced in their technologies. Sadly, some of these missions resulted in explosions.
Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX, claims that there will be no less than 50 falcon 9 test missions before a crew will be put on the Crew Dragon. Each excursion will have up to four NASA approved astronauts, although the vessel holds room for seven. Shotwell aims to have these astronauts in space by the near impossible deadline. Elon Musk always sets impossible deadlines so his workers will thrive under pressure. "Human space flight is why SpaceX was founded," Shotwell says.
Importantly, the Russian Space Program (a state run space agency called Roscosmos) will no longer fly United States astronauts to the International Space Station after 2018, according to a release issued by the TASS news agency. But ever since NASA's space shuttle program closed its doors in 2011, NASA has been dependent on Russia for trips to the International Space Station. The two entities had managed to get along reasonably well, despite all that Cold War stuff. Now that a rift seems to have occurred, NASA has few other options for getting there. So the U.S. Government has contracted 2.6 billion dollars to SpaceX for the funding of the Crew Dragon.
Ever since the Cold War ended, it seems that relations between Russia and America have sunk to an all time low. In 2014, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin sent an ominous tweet:
"After analyzing the sanctions against our space industry, I suggest to the USA to bring their astronauts to the International Space Station using a trampoline."