The first ever private mission to the International Space Station(ISS) has been rescheduled to take place within the next month with the Launch of SpaceX’s craft ‘Dragon’. This capsule is due to deliver key equipment to astronauts already serving on the ISS. Contracting out NASA missions introduces a new era in both freight and human cargo transportation in Earth orbit and beyond. Will this be a short term solution for NASA as they search for the next generation of the ‘Space Shuttle’ or are they playing with fire even to hot for them?
This mission has already hit a few snags with the launch date being pushed back due to inadequate tests on the booster functions powering the transportation vehicle. The Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) is private space company that is now entering into its 10th year in operation. The Company was founded by the PayPal entrepreneur Elon Musk, with an ideal to reduce the costs of space travel and therefore make the Universe more affordable and accessible to the public.
SpaceX’s ambitions have also come under scrutiny by both Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan, first and last men on the moon respectively, who are concerned with commercial spacecraft ruling the skies above the sky. The two former astronaut’s words cut into Musk hard as he says they are heroes of his. SpaceX will need backing from the space exploration community if they are to carry out future missions to the ISS.
Obviously Elon Musk thrives for this very coveted prize in space travel as it is the reason he set up SpaceX in the first place.
I think it’s important that humanity become a multi-planet species… I think most people would agree that a future where we are a spacefaring civilization is inspiring and exciting compared with one where we are forever confined to Earth until some eventual extinction event.
SpaceX was awarded the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contract in 2010, with the sole purpose of delivering NASA’s cargo to the International Space Station for the foreseeable future. The ‘Dragon’ capsule is the jewel in the crown of SpaceX’s fleet. Dragon is a rigorously tried and tested machine that can carry both freight and human loads to the ISS and beyond. The capsule will be ferried into Earth orbit by another ship in the fleet, SpaceX’s current heavy load rocket the Falcon 9. This massive and powerful booster system, along with Dragon, will also be making its official maiden flight when the two depart from Cape Canaverial next month.
Dragon’s initial approach to the ISS will be tentative as the Space Station’s robotic arm will be extended in order to help the capsule dock, with the added obstacle of Dragons lengthy solar panels. The capsule has already flown by the ISS in an attempted to test radio and laboratory equipment in 2010 with resounding success. Now with the implementation of this mission SpaceX will create history by being the first privatised spacecraft to dock with the multinational government funded Space Station.
The rescheduled flight date has been penciled in for around April 30th however this date is susceptible to change due to ongoing tests and safety issues being the most important task at hand. If all this rigorous planning and testing comes to fruition and the overall mission is a success, then SpaceX are likely to be awarded future assignments into deep space and possibly, in the distant future, to planets such as Mars.
- SpaceX completes important ‘wet dress’ rehearsal test for upcoming flight to space station (physorg.com)
- Year of the “Dragon” (acrosstheuniverseinnotime.com)