The Downlink: Crew Dragon Completes Crucial Test, More Mars Mole Problems
SpaceX Crew Dragon In-flight Abort Test
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft uses its built-in thrusters to blast away from a Falcon 9 rocket during a flight test on 19 December 2020. The test validated Crew Dragon’s ability to safely separate from its rocket in the event of an emergency.
Welcome to The Downlink, a planetary exploration news roundup from The Planetary Society! Here's everything that crossed our radar this week.
China is preparing for an April test flight of its new crew vehicle that will be used to send as many as 6 astronauts beyond Earth orbit. The new spacecraft is designed for a variety of purposes including trips to the Moon and to China’s Tianhe space station in Earth orbit. Construction of Tianhe could begin next year.
The core stage of NASA’s first Space Launch System rocket, which is scheduled to perform a test flight next year, was lowered into a giant test stand at the agency’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. NASA intends to test-fire the rocket there before shipping the stage to Florida for launch.
NASA spacewalkers completed the third and final spacewalk to replace a set of aging nickel-hydrogen batteries aboard the International Space Station with newer, more powerful lithium-ion versions. Another spacewalk is planned this weekend to complete repairs of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, which scientists use to hunt for dark matter. It is the ninth spacewalk for the current crew, which sets a new record in space station program history.
Chinese media reports that the country’s lunar sample return mission, Chang’e-5, is scheduled to launch in October 2020. The mission will return as many as 4 kilograms of lunar soil to Earth and practice key technologies needed for future crewed missions such as the ability to rendezvous in lunar orbit.