SpaceX is still working on a new, safer helium tank design needed for launches with astronauts, and the debut of the company’s upgraded Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket earlier this month did count as one of seven successful missions in “crew configuration” NASA says it requires before putting astronauts aboard the vehicle, officials said Thursday.
A team of SpaceX engineers is building a prototype of the spaceship Elon Musk hopes will one day carry people and cargo deep into the solar system, and it could begin low-altitude testing next year, kicking off a multi-step test campaign before eventually going into space, then perhaps the moon or Mars.
Even though it doesn’t obey any earthly speed limit and has a space-suited mannequin for a driver, Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster won’t drive up his insurance rates anytime soon. Researchers say the sports car won’t have a really close encounter with Earth until 2091 and could last millions of years before getting totaled in a planetary crackup.
Now in an elliptical orbit around the sun, the Tesla Roadster launched atop a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket Tuesday during the powerful booster’s maiden flight was expected to pass beyond the moon’s orbit overnight Wednesday and reach the orbit of Mars in July as it puts Earth in its rear view mirror, analysts said.