SpaceX Gets Ready to Put Humans Into Space
Roopinder Tara posted on May 29, 2020 |
NASA writes a check, gets a rocket ship

The launch of the SpaceX rocket tomorrow (Saturday, May 30, 2020 3:30pm ET) is the company’s second attempt to be the first private company to put humans into space.

We call upon our resident expert on all matters of technology, including rocketry and space travel, James Anderton, to give a background, commentary and a historical perspective to the launch and the mission.

NASA is no longer involved in the technology to deliver astronauts into orbit. Rather, it has contracted SpaceX and Boeing to do it for them, says Jim.

What have been some of SpaceX’s technical challenges and setbacks?

On their last attempt, the rocket blew up on the launch pad.

What’s changed now that SpaceX is taking the initiative with humans in space?

NASA programs, from Gemini to Apollo, have been huge systems integration projects involving many vendors and many systems. Now NASA can basically write a check to one or two vendors and get a manned rocket flight.

SpaceX lacks the experience of putting astronauts into space that NASA has. Should we be worried?

The Falcon 9 rocket [that SpaceX will be using] has proven to be a very reliable rocket.

SpaceX is using the NASA playbook, taking a proven rocket propulsions system, like an ICBM, and putting a crew vehicle on top, instead of a nuclear payload.

Is there any money in putting humans in space?

The market for space travel is not a big one. It’s something like $8 or $9 billion – or about the same size as the market for toothpaste.

There had better be a backup way to make money. Like putting communication satellites into a low Earth orbit. SpaceX has already taken a lead in putting comsats into space. But there is some competition. There's a joint European program. There’s a Russian program, too [Soyuz]. NASA paid them roughly $80 million per astronaut to go to the international space station and back. 

For more from Jim, see the video above.

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