SpaceX has carried out some tests with a special ship, which will be used from 2019 to pick up Crew Dragon capsules with astronauts from the sea, which included a helicopter landing on a special helipad.
Named Go Searcher, the ship is equipped with a crane that picks up SpaceX Crew Dragon capsules from the sea. To respond quickly to a medical emergency, the ship is equipped with a medical treatment station and a helipad to transport any injured astronauts to a hospital on the mainland as quickly as possible. NASA reports that SpaceX recently completed a helicopter landing on this platform, including exercises where patients were taken aboard the helicopter. The helicopter can also fly in doctors in an emergency.
Go Searcher is part of a fleet of ships from SpaceX, which also includes the drone ships used to receive rocket stages from Falcon 9 rockets. Until recently, the Go Searcher was involved in the operations of these drone ships, as a support ship. SpaceX has now given the ship a helipad and radar, making it suitable for quickly finding Dragon capsules and fishing them from the ocean. In principle, Go Searcher’s only task is to pick up Crew Dragon capsules from SpaceX from the Atlantic Ocean east of the US state of Florida. Boeing’s similar Starliner capsules will in principle land on land, although the Starliner is designed in such a way that the capsule can also end up in water in the event of an emergency.
The Crew Dragon capsules, like the Boeing Starliner capsules, are part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, in which astronauts go to the ISS with private space capsules. As of 2019, this will put an end to dependence on the Russian Soyuz rocket for the transport of astronauts to the ISS. The Starliner will go up with United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket, but is also suitable for the Vulcan rocket under development. The Crew Dragon is suitable for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. The Crew Dragon’s first launch will take place in January 2019, albeit without astronauts. The first unmanned flight of the Starliner will follow in March.