SpaceX may not have stuck its recent ambitious water landing, but Elon Musk's private rocket company isn't letting that slow it down. Just a few minutes ago on the official SpaceX Facebook page, the company posted the following video and photos of its capsule designed to carry astronauts, the Dragon 2 or "Crew Dragon," performing a "hover test."
While SpaceX has been using the original Dragon to carry cargo into space, the Dragon 2 is meant to carry a crew of up to seven astronauts into orbit and eventually all the way to the International Space Station, as well as to land them safely back on Earth using onboard propulsive rockets. Those rockets are precisely what SpaceX is testing, to make sure that they can be switched on-and-off in a reliable and controlled fashion.
As for when people will get a chance to ride this thing, that could come as early as next year.
NASA recently revealed a crew of four astronauts that will be the first to ride in a private craft, and placed an order for a human-crewed flight to the International Space Station for 2017, but the agency still hasn't said which private company will begin flights.
SpaceX and Boeing are the two leading contenders, Boeing with its lesser-known CST-100 Starliner capsule. There are also indications that the ambitious timeline for such a test flight could get delayed until 2018 or later.
Still, SpaceX is clearly getting things ready for its first unmanned tests of the Dragon 2, as well as the eventual human-crewed missions. That's exciting in-and-of itself, no matter how far off the end goal may be. Even creating a craft capable of performing a controlled hover test like this is no easy feat — it is, after all, rocket science.