Crew Dragon launched. Expected today the docking at the International Space Station of the capsule developed by SpaceX for NASA, after nine years it returns to the USA the ability to bring men into space. The era of public-private partnerships in space flight has been inaugurated
The second time is the right one. The Crew Dragon spacecraft, developed by SpaceX, carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley took off at 15:22 EDT on Saturday on the Falcon 9 rocket (also SpaceX) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
As expected, the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket returned to Earth while the capsule separated from the second stage of the rocket and to continue the journey to the International Space Station (ISS).
The United States returns to launch astronauts from American soil into orbit with an American carrier for the first time since the conclusion of the Space Shuttle program in 2011.
But the firsts don’t end there. For the first time in history, NASA astronauts launched themselves from American soil into low Earth orbit in a spacecraft built and operated commercially by a private company.
Elon Musk’s spacecraft definitively sanctions the entry of private individuals into space, promising a radical change destined to make space an enterprise within everyone’s reach, starting with companies.
The SpaceX spacecraft is scheduled to dock at the ISS at 10:29 am EDT on Sunday 31 May.
THE “GO” ON THE SECOND ATTEMPT
Although the weather conditions were not optimal even this time, yesterday it was decided for the ‘go’, with clouds and rain over the Kennedy Space Center and with the cumulonimbus and lightning indicators that marked red. Then a sudden improvement and when there were 45 minutes left to launch it was decided to move forward.
THE FIRST LAUNCH CANCELED
In fact, the first attempt of the Demo-2 mission was postponed due to bad weather on Wednesday evening. Less than 17 minutes after launch, SpaceX has decided to postpone the launch due to bad weather in the region.
THE DEMO-2 MISSION
Known as NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2, the mission is the second test of the Crew Dragon capsule, which in March 2019 had made the first unmanned test flight directed to the ISS.
Demo-2 is an end-to-end test flight to validate the SpaceX crew transportation system, including launch, in orbit, docking and landing operations. This is the first test with astronauts on board, which will pave the way for its certification for regular crew flights to the station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew program.
Now AstroDoug and AstroBehnken will have to prove conclusively that Elon Musk’s shuttle is capable of bringing men into orbit and restoring the ability to bring men into space to the United States.
THE ATTACK TO ISS
Designed to dock independently, the crews aboard Crew Dragon and the Space Spaction will still monitor the performance of the spacecraft as it approaches and hooks up to the front door of the Harmony module of the Iss.
After the docking, the two astronauts will be welcomed on board the International Space Station, where they will become a member of the Expedition 63 crew. The crew will perform tests on Crew Dragon as well as conduct research and other tasks with the ISS crew.
A NEW ERA IN SPACE FLIGHT
“Today begins a new era in human space flight as we once again launch American astronauts on American missiles from American soil bound for the International Space Station, our national laboratory in orbit around the Earth.” Last night, NASA number one Jim Bridenstine declared. “The launch of this commercial space system designed for humans is a phenomenal demonstration of American excellence and is an important step in our path to expand human exploration on the Moon and Mars.”
A launch that is a symbol for the United States, which President Donald Trump wanted to witness personally. “It’s amazing,” was his first comment at the launch, which he attended alongside his deputy Mike Pence.
Today, @SecondLady and I had the honor of joining President @realDonaldTrump to witness @Astro_Doug and @AstroBehnken complete a historic launch of from American soil on an American rocket at @NASAKennedy! This is the beginning of a new era of American leadership in space! pic.twitter.com/ktDl9J2uhc
– Mike Pence (@Mike_Pence) May 30, 2020
THE SPACE PREROGATIVE FOR TRUMP
President Trump made space a priority by establishing the Space Force as a branch of the U.S. Army independent of NASA and presenting his first American national space strategy.
Not only that, The Donald is pushing NASA to bring astronauts to the Moon by 2024, for the first time since the last Apollo mission in 1972. Although the NASA Artemis program in deep space is delayed by many months and beyond the budget .
THE COMMERCIAL CREW PROGRAM
Hoping to stimulate a commercial space market, in 2014 NASA awarded SpaceX $ 3.1 billion and Boeing $ 4.5 billion to develop space capsules, experimenting with a contract model that allows the space agency to purchase seats. for astronauts from the two companies.
The crewed flights of both companies represent the first times in history in which NASA has sent astronauts to space on systems built, tested and managed by private companies.
FRANKING BY THE RUSSIANS
“It is unclear whether NASA will save a lot of money by paying for SpaceX instead of the Russians. But the money remains in the United States. And for strategic and geopolitical reasons it is good to have our human launching capacity “, commented Jeff Hoffman, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at Mit and ex NASA astronaut, at Guardian.
Since 2011, NASA has been forced to rely on the Russian space agency, purchasing seats aboard the old Soyuz spacecraft for up to $ 85 million per pass. With the success of the SpaceX Demo-2 mission, everything will change.
THE SPACEX PRIMATE
Last night SpaceX, the space company of the billionaire Elon Musk, became the first commercial operator to transport astronauts to space as part of a public-private partnership with NASA.
The launch took place via the Falcon 9, a reusable rocket that in the past had a double baptism of fire, with two explosions that took place immediately after a launch in 2015 and during a test in 2016.
With the Dragon capsule, SpaceX was the first private company to launch a vehicle into orbit (in 2010) and then to the Space Station (2012).
SpaceX has overcome its challenges. A Crew Dragon capsule was destroyed in a test explosion on the ground in Cape Canaveral in April 2019 and in 2015 a Falcon rocket blew up 139 seconds in flight. Finally on Friday, a prototype of the next generation Starship spacecraft exploded during a ground test in Texas.
THAT SURPASSES BOEING
Also with the success of Demo-2, SpaceX has overtaken Boeing. Boeing’s Starliner capsule suffered an anomaly in flight during its test flight in December. And now the next launch dates are under review.
DURATION AND TERMINATION OF THE DEMO-2 MISSION
At the moment the specific duration of the mission is not established, which will be determined once the ISS has been reached. The Crew Dragon operating spacecraft will be able to remain in orbit for at least 210 days as a NASA requirement.
At the end of the mission, Behnken and Hurley will board Crew Dragon, which will detach itself, leave the space station and return to Earth’s atmosphere. After the crash off the Atlantic coast of Florida, the crew will be picked up by the SpaceX recovery ship and brought back to the Cape Canaveral pier.
THE ITALIAN CONTRIBUTION TO THE UNITED STATES MISSION
“A historic day for the United States which after 9 years returns to having autonomous access for astronauts to the International Space Station with the launch of the Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission, thanks to the public-private partnership between NASA and SpaceX. A significant step that marks the beginning of a new commercial era for human space flights. ” The president of the Italian Space Agency (ASI), Giorgio Saccoccia, commented on the mission.
“There is also Italy’s contribution to this launch, thanks to the support provided by the base of the Italian Space Agency (ASI) Broglio Space Center (BSC) of Malindi in Kenya, which is part of the tracking stations that have followed the flight of the Crew Dragon towards the Space Station. Special thanks to all ASI staff, who ensured the opening and operation of the base during this Covid emergency period. Above all, I want to congratulate NASA, our historical partner for more than 50 years, for this new milestone! “.
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