In preparation for the first crewed Dragon launches early next year, SpaceX have completed the installation of a crew access arm at the historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center.
Images of the futuristic looking crew access arm began to surface late last week. Although there has been no official images released by SpaceX, Twitter sleuths followed its installation from the moment it arrived at Pad 39A on August 17. The arm was raised and installed late yesterday and will likely undergo testing before the first astronauts use it to board their Crew Dragon capsule.
In addition to launch pad preparations, SpaceX took another step closer to their first commercial crew launch with NASA officials approving Falcon 9 “load-and-go” fueling procedures. The load-and-go fueling approach had been heavily criticized by industry experts. Thomas Stafford, the chair of NASA’s International Space Station Advisory Committee has been its most vocal critic stating the procedure was, “contrary to booster safety criteria that has been in place for over 50 years.”
Despite critics, NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel concluded in May 2018 that load-and-go was in fact a “viable” approach. Then, in a statement published earlier this month, NASA officials announced that they would allow SpaceX to utilise load-and-go fueling for what will likely be the first time a American crew will launch aboard a commercial spacecraft.
The first commercial crew launch aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon is currently scheduled for April 2019.