For the first time since July 8, 2011, NASA will once again be launching American Astronauts from American soil, only this time it will not be on a NASA built rocket like the Space Shuttle or the Saturn V Rocket that launched Americans to the moon, this will be the first time a privately built spacecraft will launch astronauts to space. Which company would be capable of doing such an unbelievable feat? The answer is SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk on May 6, 2002.
Close to a decade ago, NASA created the Commercial Crew Program aimed at having private space companies develop a replacement for the Space Shuttle, that way NASA can focus their time and resources on other important issues such as rovers to explore other planets. Under this program, NASA had awarded SpaceX with $3.1 billion, and Boeing $4.8 billion. Although this sounds expensive, NASA has stated that the Commercial Crew Program “is poised to save the Agency approximately $20B-$30B, and provide two, independent crew transportation systems”.
SpaceX will be launching their Falcon 9 Rocket, powered by 9 powerful Merlin engines, and will be launching Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley at 4:33PM EST on board SpaceX Dragon 2 capsule. This will be the second flight of SpaceX’s Dragon 2 capsule, however it will be the first time it will be a manned mission. One important thing to note is that this capsule is far from the age of the Apollo and Space Shuttle missions where every element on board is covered with buttons, the Dragon 2 capsule uses touch screens and the latest technology that allows for most of the mission to remain autonomous. In fact, the Dragon 2 does not require the International Space Station arm to bring the capsule in for docking, but rather the Dragon 2 is capable of docking itself without input from the crew.
Although this is only the second launch of the Dragon 2 capsule, the Falcon 9 Rocket has become America’s most launched rocket, launching an amazing 85 successful launches since 2010, and 22 launches so far this year. Unlike most rockets, the Falcon 9’s massive first stage booster is capable of landing on either its land-landing zone or on one of its two autonomous drone ships called “Just Read the Instructions” and “Of Course I Still Love You”.
The ability for SpaceX to land their boosters has allowed them to slash costs of getting to space, so far the most amount of times a booster has flown is 5 times, however the latest variant of the Falcon 9 Block 5 is capable of flying upwards of 10 times with minimal repair.
SpaceX also has a lot of experience of going to the ISS (International Space Station), as it has flown cargo missions many times. This is important because this has given SpaceX plenty of data and experience of traveling and docking with the International Space Station, even though the Dragon 2 will be docking autonomous opposed to using the ISS arm.
Back to the mission, this launch is extremely important for two distinct reasons, one being that America will no longer be dependent on Russia for launching their astronauts to Space, and second being that this has created a new era in space flight, one of which private space companies have become a major asset in assisting NASA. To watch this launch, click the livestream below!
This is a live-feed from SpaceX’s Youtube Channel