Elon Musko’s SpaceX flies people to the International Space Station (ISS) using the Crew Dragon vehicle. But why is a private company transporting astronauts into space and back behind Nasa?
To understand the circumstances of the historic first mission to the CMS with a crew dragon, we must return to a tragic accident almost 20 years later.
2003 February 1The Columbia space shooters collapsed and re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere. All seven astronauts on board were killed in the crash.
The loss of Colombia and its crew has led to a major change in the American people’s space flight program.
2004 January 14 President George W. Bush has announced that the space shooter will retire upon completion of the International Space Station (ISS). In its place, America will build a new vehicle capable of bringing astronauts back to the Moon.
The following year, Mike Griffin, then head of Nasa, announced that the creation of the ISS would open up commercial opportunities for the first time for conventional cargo and astronaut transport to low-earth orbit.
Griffin said this required freeing up enough funds to achieve the return of the Moon. Nasa has established the Office of Commercial Crews and Cargo Programs (C3PO) to oversee the effort.
The company, founded by SpaceX South African businessman Elon Musko at the time, was just a few years old. Musk had noble ambitions to reduce the cost of flying from space by reusing space equipment and accommodating people on Mars.
“SpaceX was created to make life multifaceted,” said Jessica Jensen, director of starship mission equipment and operation SpaceX.
But she adds: “We have been a very small company for several years. So we had to look for opportunities – how do you go from being a small business to actually putting people into orbit. When Nasa came out with the need to fly cargo to and from the International Space Station, we jumped on it.
SpaceX was selected for evaluation under the Nasa Cargo Program in 2006. However, by 2008 SpaceX and Tesla, the electric car maker in which Musk invested, ran out of cash. Musk had to face an impossible choice: “I could either split the funds available between the two companies, or concentrate them on one company – somewhat dying for the other,” he told Business Insider in 2013.
“In the end, I decided to split what I had and try to keep both companies alive. But it could have been a terrible decision that could have allowed both companies to die.”
Fortunately, in 2008. December 23 Nasa has signed a SpaceX deal with $ 1.6 billion. Describing his reaction, Musk said, “I couldn’t even keep my compassion, I was like, ‘I love you guys.'”
The Dragon 1 capsule could carry cargo and supplies, but not people. Nevertheless, it was an important milestone for the company.
2008 November Barack Obama was elected president. His administration began a review of the human space flight program, which canceled his predecessor’s plan to return to the Moon (known as the constellation).
However, the Obama administration has supported the continued commercialization of space by supporting the development of personal crew vehicles. But it will take time, and after the spacecraft departed, Nasa had to fill the gap by paying Russia tens of millions of dollars for a seat to fly its astronauts to the ISS in a Soyuz vehicle launched from Baikonur in Kazakhstan.
Congress was initially skeptical of the Commercial Crew program and initially underfunded. However, Charles Bolden, a former astronaut who took over from Griffin as head of Nasa under Obama, survived and eventually secured the necessary support.
From the initial 50 million. USD investment in the program in 2010 Space Agency 2014 It has brought together several competing companies to two – SpaceX and Boeing.
Since then, they have improved and tested the design of their spacecraft.
2019 March. SpaceX performed the triumphant launch of Crew Dragon without astronauts. Using automated procedures, the capsule successfully approached and hitched to the space station.
He wore a mannequin called “Ripley,” after Ellen Ripley, the protagonist of Alien Films, disassembled with sensors to measure the G-forces experienced during the flight, especially the launch and return phases.
Despite this and other successes along the way, she wasn’t always flying on SpaceX. In 2016, a Falcon 9 rocket exploded on a launch pad. O 2019 April The Crew Dragon capsule exploded during a so-called static fire test on the ground. In none of the cases was anyone injured.
The spacecraft also had problems with a parachute system designed to return it safely to Earth.
These failures, along with previous funding gaps for the Commercial Crew program, delayed the initial schedule that would have seen SpaceX crew members enter the ISS in 2016. October month.
Annoyed by the detention and the time SpaceX spent on its Starship project to build an ultra-heavy lift launch vehicle, Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted:
Bridenstine sent a tweet the night before the important Starship media event where Musk was to speak.
The next day, Musk fired back with a shovel within the deadlines set by the agency itself. Asked about the CNN Twitter, Musk replied, “Did he (Bridenstine) say Commercial Crew or SLS?
The founder of SpaceX meant Nasa’s Space Launch System rocket to launch people to the moon, which was also affected by delays and cost overruns.
However, the Musko company was not the only one to face the challenges. A timing anomaly prevented the Boeing spacecraft, the CST-100 Starliner, from contacting the space station during an undeveloped test flight last year.
However, a successful in-flight test of the Crew Dragon launch termination system in 2020 Month of January. Helped pave the way for a historic first flight with astronauts from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on May 30th.
At the press conference after the launch, both Bridenstine and Muskas sounded more conciliatory, in contrast to the tensions over the Starship project.
“If you had told me then (eight months ago when he sent the tweet) that we would be here today, I don’t know if I believed it,” Bridenstine said.
“Since that day, Elonas Muskas and SpaceX have delivered everything Nasa has asked them to and at a speed we would never have guessed.
The Nasa CEO also congratulated SpaceX on its safety culture. Musk replied, “Nasa has made us much better than we would have been otherwise – and of course we couldn’t even start working without Nasa.”
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