SpaceX’s explosive test flight, which took place on January 14th, was a major success and achieved a number of key milestones. The successful deployment of the Crew Dragon capsule at the designated test site was the first of its kind for an American-made spacecraft, and marked the first time a human-rated spacecraft had launched from American soil since 2011.
That being said, there is still a long way to go before SpaceX can begin launching crewed missions. Nasa will first need to assess the data from the test flight and certify SpaceX’s safety procedures, and then the two parties will need to agree on a flight plan for a mission to the International Space Station. After that, SpaceX would need to build a second Crew Dragon spacecraft, and arrange for the supplies to be transported to and from the ISS.
In addition, the test flight demonstrated some underlying issues that need to be addressed before a successful mission can take place. For example, the parachutes deployed during the descent were not working correctly, causing the capsule to land too hard. Similarly, the abort system, which is designed to separate the capsule from the rocket in the event of an emergency, triggered an anomaly during the flight that needs to be investigated.
It’s clear that SpaceX has a number of obstacles ahead of them in order to make future crewed missions successful. But they have already made huge strides in proving the safety of their spacecraft, and there is hope that they will continue to push the boundaries of space exploration in the months and years to come.