SpaceX and the New Frontier

SpaceXSpaceX, the private space flight company, is making great strides in the new frontier of space travel. The company currently has over 40 flights on its manifest including both commercial satellite launches as well as missions consigned by NASA to resupply the International Space Station.

Founded in 2002, SpaceX currently has three space vehicles and is the only private company to return a spacecraft from low-Earth orbit, which was first accomplished in 2010. SpaceX’s main workhorse is the Dragon cargo ship. Currently the Dragon is designed to carry supplies into space and return cargo safely to Earth, but SpaceX is currently designing alterations to the space vehicle to allow a crew to fly the Dragon. The first manned test flight is expected to be in the next two to three years.

Since the United States retired its entire fleet of space shuttles, they relied heavily on Russian Roscosmos to commute its astronauts into space. Because of the recent strain on the relationship between the US and Russia, however, the United States has abandoned most aspects of its partnership with the Russian Federal Space Agency.

The severed relationship means better business for private companies like SpaceX. In 2012, SpaceX’s Dragon cargo vehicle made its first trip to ISS – a feat only before accomplished by governmental space programs. The resupply trip proved the capabilities of SpaceX and in turn led to a contract awarded by NASA for $1.6 billion in return for at least 12 resupply missions to the space station.

Executives at SpaceX say their ambition for the new frontier is “to revolutionize space technology… with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets,” according to their website. One of their current projects being developed is a reusable rocket that would drastically reduce the cost of launches, and which engineers at the SpaceX development facility in McGregor, Texas — just east of Waco — are working on right now.

Also currently in development is the Falcon Heavy project which is based off of SpaceX’s extremely reliable Falcon 9 rocket. The Falcon Heavy will be the most powerful rocket ever produced, generating the thrust capacity of 15 Boeing 747 jetliners at full throttle. The Falcon Heavy rocket will be able to deliver a higher payload into orbit than any other before its time.

With headquarters in Hawthorne, CA and launch facilities in both California and Florida, SpaceX is rapidly expanding its territory currently employing over 3.000 people.

The next mission on SpaceX’s docket is scheduled for April 14, when they will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on a directive to transport 5,000 pounds of experiment samples and tools to ISS including new arms and legs for the space station’s Robonaut, a humanoid robotic crew member. The mission is designated SpaceX-3, it will be the company’s third trip to space.

NASA will provide prelaunch coverage at Kennedy Space Center, on Cape Canaveral, on April 13 at 1pm EST. Assuming weather or other unforeseen events to not delay the launch, NASA TV will show live coverage of SpaceX’s Dragon cargo ship docking with the International Space Station, which should begin at 5:45am EST, marking a new frontier in the business of space travel.

Opinion by Cody Long

Sources:

PR Newswire
SpaceX

6 Responses to "SpaceX and the New Frontier"

  1. Rick Papo   April 8, 2014 at 5:22 am

    Wikipedia is your friend. All the background information you needed here was there, free for the taking. SpaceX, after three failed attempts, launched a satellite for the first time in 2008, and has only one partial launch failure since then, resulting in the loss of one secondary payload. Every launch of the Dragon capsule (four so far) has been a success, with three of them reaching and berthing with the ISS, and all four of them returning to splashdown intact.

    The Falcon Heavy, once it launches (next year?), will indeed be the most powerful rocket in current use, with over twice the capacity of the Space Shuttle and the Delta IV Heavy, but it will still have less than half the capacity of the retired American Saturn V, and will also be considerably less powerful than the retired Russian Energia and N1 rockets.

    Reply
  2. Scott   April 7, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    not the companies third trip to space. Fifth trip to LEO for Dragon as stated above as well as additional flights to deliver satellites to LEO already completed. These flights did not include the dragon because the satellites were enclosed in the fairing. The completed flights manifest for Space X is somewhere around a dozen flights to LEO.

    Still relatively young in the space business but very well represented thus far.

    Reply
  3. David   April 7, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    The Falcon Heavy will be the most powerful rocket currently available, but not the most powerful ever produced.

    Reply
  4. Clarence Woodworth   April 7, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    No, the Falcon Heavy won’t be the most powerful rocket ever produced. This is mostly a good article, but that is a fact that needs cleared up. It will be the third most powerful rocket ever created , behind the Saturn V ‘moon rocket’ and Russia’s “Energia”, which flew successfully twice. The Energia was the rocket launcher used for the Russian’s failed ‘space shuttle’ program. While the Soviet shuttle was never produced, Energia did manage to lift the prototype into orbit. A more powerful Soviet Rocket would have been their N1 (which was for their lunar program) but that rocket exploded all 3 times they tested one.
    Still, the rest of this article is spot-on, and that a private company that is barely over ten years old, operating at a fraction of the cost that NASA did, will produce such a powerful rocket so soon is impressive.

    Reply
  5. Lori Robin   April 7, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    CRS3 is actually the 5th trip into space. COTS1 was an orbital mission. COTS2 was a demo cargo resuplly mission to the ISS, CRS1 was the first paid NASA mission, CRS2 was the 2nd paid NASA mission … se this will be Dragon’s FITH trip into Low Earth Orbit.

    Reply
  6. Mike   April 7, 2014 at 11:08 am

    “The Falcon Heavy will be the most powerful rocket ever produced,”

    Wrong.

    Reply

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