The launch of Expedition 58 is one of the last for US astronauts aboard Russian Soyuz rockets. On December 3, NASA astronaut Anne McClain is expected to undertake her first spaceflight aboard the Soyuz, as any American astronaut has done. But next year, American astronauts will board aboard commercial crew vehicles manufactured and marketed in the United States.
It has been a long journey for NASA to complete a crew program (in defiance of multiple delays) since the Space Shuttle program was discontinued in 2011. This happened shortly after the construction of the International Space Station ISS. Since then, NASA has had no way to fly astronauts from the United States into space. Instead, all space station astronauts had to fly from far-off Baikonur in Kazakhstan at a cost of more than $ 70 million per seat. [A Baikonur Soyuz Launch During Cold War]
The Russian Soyuz probe and the Soyuz rocket have each proven to be safe. The system is known for its ability to launch in almost any weather, something the Space Shuttle could not. The only eight-year Soyuz flight that was derailed was a rupture in October this year, when two crew members safely returned to Earth aboard Expedition 57 after just a few minutes' flight. (A deformed sensor in the rocket caused the demolition, and the Russian space agency Roscosmos quickly approved flights for readmission.)
But the Americans did not want to see flights on their own soil again, not just because of their national pride. But also because of the opportunities that this brings to industry across the country.
Lower Cost of Launch
The first commercial crew test is scheduled for Jan. 7, when an unmanned version of SpaceX's manned spacecraft Dragon Spacecraft will lift off with a Falcon 9 rocket from Florida's Space Coast near Orlando. It is the same area in which every US space mission with astronauts, including the Space Shuttle and the Apollo lunar missions, began in 1
In particular SpaceX has the industry's attention because the company is known as a disruptive factor. Based in Hawthorne, California, the company was one of the first companies to develop and land reusable rocket first stages, an accomplishment that was unimaginable a decade ago. The company was also the first company to carry out commercial cargo flights to the space station from 2012 onwards.
SpaceX is already changing the way freight launches are carried out, and this could also be the case for human launches, said a commercial space federation representative. This is a group of more than 80 companies working together to build the space economy, including reducing the cost of access to orbit opportunities.
"We expect the story to repeat," said Tommy Sanford, executive director of the Federation. has notified Space.com in an email. "Just as the last time a cost-effective, regular and reliable launch service provider such as SpaceX hit the market, costs have been cut, access has been increased, and a completely new economic ecosystem – cubesats – has been created. [that] a A similar pattern will emerge when a commercial crew is brought online, which results in new ideas and opportunities that were not possible before. "
Other Options for US Providers
The addition of the commercial crew to the human launch systems will once again be able to open up competition and innovation, said Rich Cooper, vice president of the Space Foundation for Strategic Communications and Public Relations. This will happen not only between Boeing and SpaceX, but also between suppliers and partners helping the two US companies bring their spacecraft to Earth, he said.
"The Soyuz is not the only tool in town." Cooper said to Space.com. "It's not the only resource we can tap into, the entire crew of the Boeing SpaceX crew really makes the most of all the worlds and options, options that offer creativity, utility and potential, that's what's really exciting."
Cooper also pointed to a "rediscovery of national pride" as the United States will finally send astronauts back into space – a status that the country enjoyed with some gaps between 1961 and 2011. The current route is the longest ever since the beginning of the space age The American has been waiting to get out of the earth's earth into space.
From 1961 to 1966, flights were carried out at least once a year on a spaceship from one or other of the programs: the one-person capsule Mercury or human craft, which practiced docking and spacewalking. The first Apollo mission was to take off in 1967 to practice lunar work, but after the deadly Apollo 1 fire, the first crew flight was pushed back to 1968. Apollo missions were frequent between 1968 and 1972.
US. Astronauts flew into space three times in 1973 for space station Skylab missions; Then joined the next US crew in 1975 a Soviet mission for Apollo Soyuz. This was followed by a six-year gap until the 1981 Space Shuttle was ready to fly. In 1981, the Challenger and Columbia flights were suspended for two years each from 1986 and 2003, respectively, as Space Shuttle's fatal accidents. But for the most part, the shuttle held the astronauts into space and back between 1981 and 2011.
In 2010, just as the Space Shuttle program was completed, NASA began offering money to companies interested in developing commercial crew vehicles. SpaceX and Boeing were selected in 2014. The development of commercial crew vehicles should not take so long, but budget cuts and technical complexity delayed the launch of the program for several years. A possible crew launch is planned for 2019 or 2020.
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