Elon Musk’s SpaceX corporation has upgraded its ocean recovery vessel in preparation for possible worse-case scenarios when it begins ferrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station early next year.
Go Searcher – a 50m former offshore supply vessel which will be tasked with recovering SpaceX’s crewed Dragon capsules when they splash down in the Atlantic Ocean – has been equipped with new medical treatment facilities and a helipad.
During an ideal mission, the returning crew’s capsule will splash down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida and Go Searcher will arrive to lift it out of the water using its aft-end crane.
Onboard medical staff will then check the astronauts as Go Searcher navigates back to Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Once ashore, the crew will head to the closest airport to head back to NASA’s facility in Houston for a debrief.
However, if anything goes wrong during the return landing, the astronauts can be airlifted directly off Go Searcher by helicopter and taken quickly to a hospital.
Go Searcher is part of a fleet of ocean vessels that SpaceX has acquired over the years to aid in its spaceflight efforts – including autonomous drone ships, which are being used as landing pads when the company’s Falcon 9 rockets are recovered in the ocean after launches.