SpaceX installs futuristic astronaut walkway at historic KSC launch pad

First 4 SpaceX commercial crew astronauts recently announced by NASA

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER - NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will be the first to walk across the recently installed futuristic black and white walkway and board the SpaceX Crew Dragon on its maiden voyage to space with crew.

SpaceX installed the walkway to the launch tower, known as the crew access arm, on Kennedy Space Center’s historic launch pad 39A Monday. The new hardware brings us one step closer to the return of launching U.S. astronauts from American soil, slated for next year, for the first time in eight years.

Space journalist Ken Kremer photographed the new arm being installed via crane to the launch tower on Monday. The black and white arm matches the sleek spacesuits astronauts who launch on Crew Dragon will wear. 

According to NASA, the SpaceX crew access arm was installed 70 feet higher than the former space shuttle access arm on the launch pad’s Fixed Service Structure. 

The commercial crew will walk the crew access arm at pad 39A before boarding SpaceX's Crew Dragon for launch. (Photo: Ken Kremer/Kenkremer.com)

As soon as next year, Hurley and Behnken will ascend the crew access tower, go through a clean room process and walk the bridge between the tower to the Falcon 9 rocket and board the Crew Dragon spacecraft.

NASA recently revealed who the first astronauts to launch on SpaceX and Boeing commercial crew spacecraft will be. After Behnken and Hurley make the first test flight of Crew Dragon, astronauts Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins will be the next to fly on the capsule. That trip will be the first mission to the International Space Station for Crew Dragon.

The four NASA astronauts and Boeing's test pilot Chris Ferguson will launch on Boeing's CST-100 Starliner from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 41 on United Launch Alliance's Atlas V. News 6 recently toured that facility. Take a look here.

According to NASA's most recent target test flight dates, SpaceX is expected to have the Crew Dragon certified for human spaceflight no earlier than April 2019, and Boeing's Starliner will be certified by the middle of next year.

2017 file photo: Astronauts Bob Behnken and Eric Boe walk down the Crew Access Arm being built by SpaceX for Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Photo Credit: SpaceX)

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