Under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, private space company SpaceX has developed a capsule that will eventually take astronauts to the International Space Station, and it’s called the Crew Dragon. When returning to Earth, astronauts will splash down into the ocean where recovery teams will need to retrieve them. According to NASA, officials carried out rehearsals of this scenario recently.
NASA explains that recovery teams will need to retrieve the astronauts and get them back to land ASAP. Though it is said to be an unlikely situation, there’s always the possibility that an astronaut may be experiencing a medical emergency at the time, which also makes it necessary to have a solution ready. There’s where SpaceX’s GO Searcher recovery ship comes in.
This recovery vessel is equipped with a helipad and medical treatment facility, according to NASA, which shared images from the rehearsal today. The space agency says that SpaceX has recently performed rehearsals on landing a helicopter on the recovery vessel, as well as loading astronauts who have freshly returned to Earth.
Though a medical team will be present on the vessel, the helicopter will enable them to directly transport someone to a hospital if necessary. A crane on the ship, meanwhile, retrieves the Crew Dragon capsule out of the ocean.
The work is part of a long process that will eventually see NASA launching astronauts from the United States, something that hasn’t happened since 2011. The first Crew Dragon flight is expected to take place in January 2019, though it won’t carry people at that time. Later on next year, assuming everything goes well, a crewed flight will take place.
Image by NASA