Space Exploration Technologies Corp., popularly known as SpaceX, plans to launch its capsule to the International Space Station (ISS) next year. Earlier, a SpaceX rocket, Falcon 9 had successfully completed a historic mission of delivering Dargon cargo capsule into orbit in May 2012, making SpaceX the first commercial company ever to travel the ISS.
Failures of Falcon 9’s Previous Tests
Elon Musk’s SpaceX had been in trouble since April 2019, after the Falcon 9 rocket test was failed during the activation of its liquid engine, SuperDraco propulsion system which led to destroying the Crew Dragon. SpaceX has been developing spacecraft including Crew Dragon for NASA and the incident has delayed SpaceX’s timeline for its launching the carrier.
As NASA television reported, SpaceX’s 18th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-18) mission to the International Space Station was scheduled to lift off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on July 25, 2019, at 6:01 p.m.
Referring to SpaceX’s test failure that delayed the spacecraft launch, Jim Bridenstine, the NASA Administrator stated, “I have been focused on returning to realism when it comes to costs and schedules. So, I was signaling – and I haven’t done it just to SpaceX but to all of our contractors – that we need more realism built into the development timelines.” As shown on the company’s website, “a Falcon 9 launch costs an average of $57 million, which works out to less than $2,500 per pound to orbit.”
The Falcon 9 has the capacity that can lift off an engine heavier more than 5 million pounds and can carry more than 140,000 pounds of cargo into low Earth orbit. The satellite launching vehicle is a two-stage rocket that has the capability to return back to Earth after traveling into the satellite station.
Musk Promise of launching Astronauts in 2020
Musk tweeted on Sunday, December 29, 2019, showing an animated video about launching the Crew Dragon or Dragon 2 carrier by a Falcon 9 rocket into the ISS and safely returning the vehicle to Earth. The two-minute-long simulated video shows how astronauts can travel the space and return back to Earth.
The video begins the crew boarding the capsule, the Falcon carrying the capsule travels towards space, the capsule breaks away and moves towards the ISS once the rocket reaches orbit, and after a few trips around Earth, the crew Dragon safely returns back to Earth. Musk claimed that the Dragon 2 carrier would be ready for the ISS trip by February 2020.
Musk claimed that Monday’s attempt was a significant step after the failure of the April test. SpaceX had shown a video in November 2019 about a successful landing test of the new capsule with the help of its parachutes. In the test, the capsule successful landed by using only three of its four parachutes after dropping it from a plane. The test indicated that Crew Dragon could land even in the condition of the failure of one parachute.
Following the recent simulated test, Musk revealed his plan for launching the new capsule into the orbit next year. The recent Dragon 2 capsule is about 20 feet tall with 12 feet in diameter which can carry up to 7 astronauts at a time. It has also an advanced emergency exit system to ensure the safety of the astronauts in the case of malfunctioning of the spacecraft. Dragon 2 will be equipped with a facility for landing using its SuperDraco instead of dipping inside the ocean. This facility will help NASA to get easy access to the cargo returned by the spacecraft.
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