Countdown to the Demo-2 mission. Elon Musk’s SpaceX is ready for the launch of the Crew Dragon with astronauts on board. It will be the first manned mission entrusted to a private company
May 27 is a historic day for the US space program. The success of the SpaceX Demo-2 mission with the aim of transporting NASA astronauts to space from American soil could upset the ten-year relationship between the United States and Russia.
The launch of the Crew Dragon capsule with crew should take place today at 4:33 PM ET (22:32 Italian time). President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence will attend the launch in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
It is in fact the first launch of astronauts from American soil after the Space Shuttle left the scene 9 years ago and the first aboard a vehicle built for NASA by a private company.
COUNTDOWN ACCOUNT FOR DEMO-2
The Crew Dragon space capsule of the SpaceX company founded by Elon Musk will transport astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station. The Falcon 9 rocket launch (also SpaceX) will take place from the same launch platform used by the last NASA Space Shuttle mission in 2011.
Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon will lift off from Launch Complex 39A – the same place Saturn V launched humanity to the Moon and from where the first and final Space Shuttle missions lifted off pic.twitter.com/wOSsbCRqi7
– SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 25, 2020
AFTER THE SUCCESS OF DEMO-1
Last year, Elon Mask’s company made a complete test with the Demo-1 mission. On 2 March 2019 he successfully launched unmanned Crew Dragon on board. The capsule reached the ISS and then returned to Earth.
A MILESTONE FOR THE AMERICAN SPACE FLIGHT
This test flight is a cornerstone of NASA’s Commercial Crew program for returning to launch astronauts into space without Russian support. The U.S. space agency has decided to rely on a public / private partnership to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil to the space station for the first time since 2011.
For SpaceX and NASA, a safe flight would therefore represent a milestone also in the development of reusable spacecraft that can make space travel more convenient.
REUSABLE SPACEX LAUNCHERS
The Musk company has developed the reusable Falcon 1, Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launchers. The price of Falcon 9 ($ 62 million as read on the SpaceX website) and the fact that it is reusable have changed the space industry.
In recent years, a place on the Russian Soyuz rocket has cost NASA an average of $ 80 million.
THE NASA 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.
In this way, NASA intended to ensure safe, reliable and economic access to space, avoiding the risks of a monopoly of a single supplier.
FROM AND TO THE ISS, BUT ALSO MOON AND MARS
The goal of the Commercial Crew Program is to provide transportation to and from the International Space Station. Not only. NASA expects Demo-2 to kick off a new era of public-private exploration that allows the United States to achieve further milestones. Like the moon. The space agency relies heavily on private industry in its lunar exploration program Artemis, which aims to land two astronauts near the south pole of the Moon in 2024 and establish a sustainable human presence on and around our satellite by 2028. .
For SpaceX Demo-2 it will only be the beginning, if everything goes according to plan. Indeed, Elon Musk sees the mission as a key step towards a bold future in which society helps humanity colonize Mars, among other ambitious exploration ventures.
If SpaceX is preparing to be the first private company to reach Cape Canaveral’s 39A platform to launch astronauts, Boeing has also worked for the same target since 2014.
But Boeing’s development of its Starliner capsule has encountered some recent problems.
The company’s unmanned test flight in December ended earlier than expected when the spacecraft failed to reach the space station due to problems that arose shortly after launch. Boeing is not expected to launch its first crew before 2021.
SpaceX also encountered technical obstacles, including an explosion last year that destroyed one of its capsules during a test and failures during parachute tests. But Musk’s company managed to recover quickly.
DOES THE USA RELY TO THE RUSSIANS?
If SpaceX – and then Boeing – succeeds in transporting astronauts to space, the United States plans to stop buying flights from Russia. For nine years, Russian rockets have been the only transport in orbit for US astronauts. A place on the Soyuz rocket has cost NASA an average of $ 80 million in recent years.
As reported AxiosNASA recently purchased what the agency expects to be its last spot for $ 90 million.
Given that the United States is about to regain the ability to launch astronauts with its rockets, the future of Russia’s space program – already in trouble – and how the United States will collaborate with it, it is not clear according to Axios.
The budget of Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, for 2020 is about 1.7 billion dollars, a sharp drop compared to 5 billion in 2014. NASA, with a 2020 budget of 22.6 billion, has spent about $ 1 billion between 2017 and 2019 to fly their astronauts on Soyuz spacecraft.
TIMELINE OF THE DEMO-2 MISSION
The mission must be started at the exact time. Otherwise, SpaceX will be forced to rely on the reserve date scheduled for Saturday 30 May.
The Falcon 9 rocket will release Crew Dragon into the low Earth orbit about 12 minutes after takeoff. The rocket will then return to Earth where landing on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean is scheduled.
For the next 19 hours, astronauts will orbit the planet. If launch proceeds as expected, docking should take place at 11:29 am ET on Thursday May 28th. It is not known when the two astronauts will return. NASA has said it will make the decision on the crew’s return date while in space.
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