Does SpaceX have the capability to send people around the moon? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
I think the chances of the SpaceX mission around the Moon going ahead on schedule in 2018 is tiny. But on the remote chance it does happen, I would not fly on that mission, if you paid me a billion dollars. The problem is that they have to rely on hardware that is hardly tested in space at all. They are depending on a spacecraft which will have its first flight in 2018, the Dragon 2. Their current Dragon is only rated for re-entry from LEO (Low Earth Orbit). Only the Dragon 2 has a thick enough aeroshell to handle the much higher speed of re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere from the Moon.
Also, the Falcon 9 “full thrust” can launch a Dragon 2 to LEO but not around the Moon. So they are also depending on the Falcon Heavy to launch it, a rocket that will fly for the first time perhaps in late 2017. So it would be one of the early flights of a Dragon 2 (manned or unmanned) and the first crewed flight on a Falcon Heavy, and one of its first flights ever of this rocket, if they do it on that timetable. Also, they would have had their first ever crewed flight into space, earlier the same year.
Their unmanned rockets have blown up once each year for the last two years (Sept 1, 2016 and June 28, 2015). If one of the early flights of the Falcon Heavy blows up, then that will delay things a lot and surely lead to questions of passenger safety.
They are also using a fueling procedure where they load the fuel after the astronauts are on board – something never done before with passengers, and there is some concern that it is less safe. The rocket can explode while the fuel is being loaded, and that’s what happened to one of their rockets last year (the explosion on Sept 1, 2016). If the fuel is already on board…