Provided that they stop spontaneously blowing up, SpaceX's Dragon rockets will someday carry astronauts up to the International Space Station. It's a long, potentially explosive road to a manned mission, but a recent ground simulation puts the team closer.
At the avionics testbed facility in Hawthorne, California, the SpaceX team recently simulated a flight to the ISS on the Crew Dragon vehicle. It's the first time the hardware and software has all worked together to simulate a mission, which makes this a big deal: nothing suddenly burst into flames, and the Crew Dragon avionics was proved to work.
"It may not sound exciting, but it's a really, really important tool. We can basically fly the Crew Dragon on the ground — flip the switches, touch the screens, test the algorithms and the batteries — all before testing the avionics system in flight," said Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of mission assurance for SpaceX.
Provided that everything goes to plan, the first manned flight is scheduled to take place in 2-3 years.