SpaceX is preparing to launch four NASA astronauts on its Crew Dragon spacecraft this Halloween, the first of six regular manned missions the space agency has contracted from the Elon Musk-founded rocket company. (What ended in August was considered a demonstration.)
This is in addition to the cargo replenishment missions that SpaceX will regularly launch on the International Space Station for NASA. The company has sent a spaceship designed to carry supplies, called the Cargo Dragon, to the orbiting laboratory since 2012. That vehicle has made more than 20 trips to the station and back.
Combined, the two types of Dragon spacecraft are expected to be launched into space seven times over the next 1
“Whenever there is a Dragon launch, there will be two dragons in space,” Benji Reed, director of crew mission management at SpaceX, said at a news conference earlier this month.
This is because each of the manned SpaceX missions should overlap for a while. The company’s next astronaut mission, called Crew 1, will launch at the end of the month, then the next one, Crew-2, will launch at the end of March 2021. But the Crew-1 astronauts have no plans to leave station space until April. The same thing should happen with the following mission, Crew-3: it should launch in September 2021, so it should tag with Crew-2 in orbit.
The Crew-1 crew includes NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Mike Hopkins and Victor Glover, as well as astronaut Soichi Noguchi of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency. Hopkins will be the commander of the mission, Glover the pilot and mission specialists Walker and Noguchi.
NASA’s ‘next era of human space flight’
Before SpaceX launched NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the space station in May with its Crew Dragon, NASA had not been able to fly its astronauts into space since 2011, when it ended its shuttle program. space.
The partnership with SpaceX was the product of the space agency’s Commercial Crew Program, which pitted private companies in competition for government contracts worth billions of dollars. SpaceX and Boeing won. Once the program is complete, NASA will have distributed more than $ 8 billion in awards and contracts in about a decade.
Boeing is expected to launch its first manned CST-100 Starliner spaceship in December 2021. The crew of the Starliner-1 is made up of Commander Sunita Williams, mission specialist Jeanette Epps and pilot Josh A. Cassada, all NASA astronauts. The fourth member has not yet been announced.
But before Boeing launches humans into space, it must retry an unmanned demonstration mission to Starliner, because the December attempt failed: Starliner successfully entered orbit, but failed to meet with the space station due to errors. potentially “catastrophic” software that NASA then investigated. The vehicle also encountered problems while returning to Earth.
Until Starliner is ready for space flight, Crew Dragon remains the only ship the United States has to transport people to and from the space station, so crew changes, for the foreseeable future, will all be on SpaceX missions.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said he imagines “the next era of human spaceflight” will be one in which NASA can be one of many customers in a “robust commercial market.”
In addition to Commercial Crew, NASA is forging other partnerships with private industry to generate revenue. In September, the agency announced a $ 128,000 deal with Estée Lauder to transport 10 bottles of the cosmetics company’s Advanced Night Repair serum to the space station, where crew members will shoot videos and images.
In October 2021, Tom Cruise and “Mission Impossible: Edge of Tomorrow” director Doug Liman will travel to the ISS on a SpaceX tourist mission, where they will shoot the first major success in space. NASA is also in talks with US production company Space Hero, Inc. to produce the first reality TV series shot in space.