After delays, SpaceX is making final preparations for its first mission carrying humans to space.
Not long after competitor Boeing had trouble sending its new Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station, Elon Musk has shared his vision of how to get astronauts to orbit from US soil for the first time in nearly a decade.
The SpaceX CEO on Sunday tweeted an animated rendering showing the company's Crew Dragon craft launching atop a Falcon 9 rocket, docking with the ISS and eventually returning to Earth for a soft, parachute-aided landing.
Musk tagged the mission trailer "Simulation of first crewed flight of Falcon 9 / Dragon 2020," signaling that SpaceX could launch humans to space for NASA from the US next year, nine years after the space shuttle program ended. Since 2011, the space agency has relied on Russian Soyuz craft to ferry crew to and from orbit.
NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX to develop new spacecraft to access orbit as part of its commercial crew program, but both Dragon and Starliner have run into setbacks and are behind schedule. An uncrewed Starliner dry run failed to reach the ISS earlier this month.
SpaceX saw one of its Crew Dragon capsules explode during a test on the ground earlier in the year. It has since passed the same test and has also already managed an uncrewed docking with ISS. Crew Dragon finally appears primed to launch with humans aboard for the first time. Musk has indicated all systems might be ready to go by the middle of 2020.
"Crew Dragon should be physically ready & at the Cape in Feb, but completing all safety reviews will probably take a few more months," he tweeted.