by Chris Tobias
SpaceX recently completed its second successful launch of a Falcon 9 rocket in less than two weeks, a record turnaround time for the company. The first of those launches sent an umanned Dragon to the International Space Station. It’s still berthed there, and will return to Earth later this month.
But while that unmanned Dragon remains in Low Earth Orbit at the ISS, SpaceX is about to take a major step in the development of their manned Dragon capsule, the very same one that we hope will one day be named Serenity.
On the morning of Wednesday, May 6 at approximately 7am, SpaceX plans to conduct a “pad abort” test of its Dragon V2, the manned version of the Dragon that will carry astronauts to the ISS as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The test at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 40 will simulate a launch pad emergency. The Dragon will be shot into the air from the launch pad, and will deploy its parachutes and splash down in the Atlantic Ocean. In the process, the Dragon will also employ its “SuperDraco” thrusters, which are designed to aid the capsule and its crew in escaping from a rocket on the pad or in flight if things get “interesting” in Hoban “Wash” Washburne’s definition of the word.
Following this test, the next step will be this summer, when SpaceX will conduct an “in-flight abort” test, launched from California. In that test the Dragon will attempt to escape from a Falcon 9 rocket after its launch.
These tests are significant milestones for SpaceX in the development of its manned Dragon, because these aren’t just two more tests in an unending series. These are the final two tests in the Commercial Crew Program before SpaceX and NASA actually put astronauts into space in a crewed Dragon! That makes them very significant for us here at Take Back the Sky as well. The reason is simple: it’s one thing to talk about a manned Dragon, but it’s quite another to see it in action, even if the crew cabin is still empty at the present time. Tests like these really drive home the fact that the day when we’ll see astronauts return to the black in a spaceship launched from American soil is (finally) almost here, and if we want that ship to be called Serenity, we need to step up our efforts now. After all, now that the ship is doing more than just sitting on a stage looking shiny, it probably won’t be long before SpaceX feels a mighty powerful urge to give her a name. Now more than ever, we Browncoats need to let ’em know we already got a perfect name all picked out!
So, if you haven’t done so yet (or if you already have, here’s your chance to do it once more with feeling), now’s the time to show your Browncoat pride by taking just a couple of minutes to type (or even scribble) a quick note to Elon Musk and Gwynne Shotwell at SpaceX and tell them why you think Serenity is the perfect name for America’s next manned spacecraft. And when you’re done, you can boost the signal of our online petition, either by adding your signature, or if you’ve already signed, by sending it to a bunch of your friends and asking them to come aboard.
SpaceX is making history. It’s about time we make a little of our own.
Peace, love and rockets…