There is an iconic vehicle that is part of the American space program, but that never left the ground: it is the Astrovan. An Airstream “motor home” adapted to transport astronauts during the 15 km route between the building that houses the Operations Center, the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and the launch pad.
With its shiny look and rounded curves, it is a guaranteed presence on all NASA manned mission since STS-9, the ninth space shuttle mission in 1983. In honor of Astrovan, Boeing and Airstream announced last December the development of a new vehicle, the “Astrovan II,” which will be used in Boeing’s human-crewed missions with the CST-100 Starliner capsule.
But SpaceX intends to abandon the tradition in favor of something more “modern.” Astronauts aboard crewed missions with the Crew Dragon will be transported to the platform in a white Tesla Model X. SpaceX was founded by Elon Musk, who is CEO of Tesla.
The first trip was made this Sunday, during a preparation test for the launch on the eve of the trial of the Crew Dragon exhaust system. Two cars will be used, driven by SpaceX employees. The second vehicle will carry a support team. The futuristic look of the car matches the suits designed by SpaceX, and the “seagull” doors make it easier for astronauts to get in and out of the vehicle, even wearing a full suit.
The first human-crewed mission aboard Crew Dragon is due to take place in the second quarter of 2020.