SpaceX unveils access arm jetway astronauts will use to board Dragon

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Capitalism in space: SpaceX has begun installing its airport-jetway-like access arm that astronauts will use to board Dragon at Launchpad 39A in anticipation of the first manned flight in April 2019.

They were originally going to install the jetway after the first unmanned demo flight, which they hoped to fly this month. That plan has now changed.

Prior to the visual milestone this week of the Crew Access Arm, or CAA, being moved to the pad surface and the base of the Fixed Service Structure (launch tower), previous information from SpaceX and NASA indicated that the arm would be installed after the Dragon’s uncrewed demo flight.

However, that schedule was based around a launch of the uncrewed Dragon flight, DM-1, in August 2018.

With NASA announcing a 3-month slip to the DM-1 flight (largely due to ISS scheduling and crew reduction aboard the International Space Station in the coming months), SpaceX found itself with an unanticipated delay to the DM-1 flight – which in turn opened up a possibility that didn’t exist before to install the CAA in August.

…But now that DM-1 is NET (No Earlier Than) November – a date Gwynne Shotwell is confident the company will meet, SpaceX is forging ahead with CAA installation because, quite simply, there is no reason to wait, at this point, to install the arm after DM-1.

Making the crew access arm resemble an airport jetway is a fine example of the pizazz that helps sell SpaceX. It also helps make space operations appear more like an ordinary transportation option, something that is necessary if the human race is ever going to become truly spacefaring.

Hat tip to reader Kirk.



  • t-dub

    I certainly hope that Musk’s recent “teary” interview and admissions of his remarks about the supposed funding for his LBO of Tesla at $420 are not going to spill over to SpaceX. He could go to jail. There is talk of Ambien mixed with alcohol with nobody screening the tweets before they went out. If Tesla goes down to the shorts or whatever that’s one thing. Electric cars have never worked, and will not, until a much more energy dense battery is developed with solid state technology that can take a harder charge and discharge rate without catching on fire, which is actually being developed in Japan right now. However it would be a disaster if Musk’s personal “difficulties” resulted in something negative spilling over to SpaceX.

  • Kirk

    Teslarati’s article on the CAA includes this grainy photo of the other side, showing where it will mate with the capsule.

  • David P

    Not sure I understand the “Electric cars have never worked, and will not…) remark. My mom and brother in law both own Teslas. They love ’em. They would pay more for them if they had to and would buy them again in the future. They drive then from California to here in New Mexico for visits. I.C E. vehicles will be around for a long time but electric is here to stay.

  • Kirk

    Oops, must have broken that link.

    Retry: The CAA is being lifted.

  • Kirk

    And some nice shots from Tom McCool.

  • Kirk

    The CAA has been hung and the crane has disconnected.

  • Edward

    Thanks for the updates and especially for the links to photos.

  • Kirk

    SpaceX just tweeted a beautiful photo of their crew access arm. Wow!

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