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Why Elon Musk's large, shiny spaceship unleashed a passive-aggressive battle with NASA

SpaceX has never flown a person into space in his Crew Dragon, his first man-powered spacecraft. But the company is already showing off its much larger, much brighter cousin: the Starship, built in Boca Chica, a coastal village on the southeastern tip of Texas, as part of a plan to send huge crews into space. And the administrator of NASA is overwhelmed.

This is because the crew dragon, which consists of a capsule that can carry cargo and crew on a Falcon Heavy rocket into space, is still far behind schedule. SpaceX received a NASA contract in 2014, announcing the delivery of a ready-to-use vehicle that would allow astronauts to fly in by 2017. This has not happened yet. Since March, SpaceX has completed an unmanned mission to the International Space Station with Crew Dragon. Later in 201

9, a mission should be started with crew. However, when a Crew Dragon capsule exploded during engine tests in April, SpaceX and NASA canceled their planned first mission with crew. [September 30, 2006] On September 30, Elton Musk, CEO of SpaceX, told CNN that the crew Dragon would be ready to launch astronauts into space in three to four months. Jim Bridenstine, the NASA administrator, told CNN he was not convinced. Delayed by SpaceX and Boeing (who are working on a similarly delayed competitive capsule called Starliner), he expected NASA to buy more seats aboard Russian capsules.

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The public friction followed an incident a few days earlier, during which Bridenstine prototyped a much stupid musk presentation of the finished spaceship with a critical tweet.

"I'm looking forward to the SpaceX announcement, and in the meantime, the crew is years behind schedule, NASA expects the US taxpayer's investment to be just as enthusiastic." It's time to deliver " he said, referring to the NASA-funded Commercial Crew Program, which has been commissioned with these joint government-private partnerships for manned space transports.

Why does SpaceX build two ships? ips, and why is the company in a public dispute with the NASA administrator?

Crew Dragon is SpaceX's answer to a problem that began after NASA had discontinued its space shuttle program with its last flight in July 2011. The space agency had no other spacecraft ready to land people and supplies into orbit to transport the International Space Station. (Since then, NASA relies on Russian vehicles to drive to the ISS.)

Starship is something completely different: a vehicle that, if it works as intended, could serve Musk's stated goal of a permanent settlement of Mars. It was not built to meet any NASA objectives or contracts, is (at least first) not launched from NASA facilities and seems to have been largely funded by a Japanese billionaire trying to drive to the moon to hitchhike. 19659002] Under President Barack Obama, NASA has managed the future of American low-earth orbital operations under the Commercial Crew program, which concludes contracts with private companies for the construction of spaceships that carry both people and supplies to and from Earth orbit promoted and people can be transported further missions to the moon and beyond. NASA has essentially mandated SpaceX and Boeing to act as taxi services under their supervision, assuming that private companies could operate more efficiently than the bureaucratic space agency. In the meantime, NASA has thrown its own technology behind another project: the Space Launch System (SLS), a huge, heavy rocket developed by NASA itself that is supposed to be the backbone of manned off-crew missions: one Moon base, travel to Mars and possibly visits to asteroids.

Bridenstine, appointed under President Donald Trump, has continued to fuel both projects. NASA wants, as Vice President Mike Pence announced in March 2019, to make the commercial crew ready for action and land the first woman on the lunar surface by 2024 (ie the end of Trump's presidency, if he does) to win a second term). In NASA's new vision, this 2024 mission will be the first step toward establishing a permanent station in lunar orbit and finally a base at the south pole of the moon.

However, SLS's short-term outlook may not be as bright. In October 2018, the Inspector General's NASA office reported that the SLS was above budget and behind schedule. Bridenstine said in March that according to Spaceflight Now, NASA could rely on commercial missiles for a lunar mission if the system of the task did not grow in time.

But that was before the Crew Dragon capsule exploded and Commercial also resigned Crew Program plans. According to SpaceNews, there were also concerns about the safety of the parachute's parachutes.

Then why build the shining spaceship (which is meant to travel beyond Earth orbit) when Crew Dragon is still perfected?

Theoretically, Crew Dragon should really be as cheap and efficient as promised. The spacecraft is reusable and can carry up to seven passengers aboard reusable Falcon 9 rockets into orbit, suggesting seating costs far below the $ 85 million that NASA spends on anyone working on one rented place on board a narrow Russian ship is transported into space. But the dragon is little more than an enlarged version of the small, round-bottomed, flat-bottomed capsules that have dominated spacecraft design for decades (with the exception of the large, sliding space shuttle).

For years, musk has mentioned Starship in his talks – SpaceX's vision for a vehicle that more or less achieves what NASA wanted to achieve with SLS, but on an even larger scale. And on Friday night (September 28), he showed the prototype MK-1 on the field where he had been assembled in South Texas.

As wide as a school bus with a diameter of 9 meters and a The huge, reusable stainless steel vehicle, which reached a height of 50 m even before putting on its launcher, is an idea, how to carry out a space travel, of nothing else in the human game book is exceeded. (As soon as the entire unit is mounted on an unconstructed, reusable Falcon Super Heavy missile, it will reach a height of over 115 meters.)

SpaceX states that Starship in its final form can carry at least 100 tons (90 tons ) Freight into orbit. And, perhaps with smaller loads, it is expected to land on the moon and return to Earth. The company has also suggested that Starship will someday carry up to 100 people, although that number would mean cramped quarters. Apollo-era Saturn V rockets could lift similar masses, but their crew capsules were comparatively tiny and never carried more than three people into space simultaneously. The planned Orion capsule, still the main crew vehicle for the first stage of the planned SLS missions, is expected to have a maximum crew capacity of six. (The Russian capsule is full at three o'clock.)

If crew Dragon were on schedule and NASA provided a route into space without expensive, embarrassing Russian help, Bridenstine might have been happier, musk on a field in front of his Giants are on the rise, a shiny new rocket ship telling the world that they'll be doing a 19-kilometer test flight in a month or two, and orbiting within six months. It's relatively cheap, big enough for long-range operations and built by engineers who can bypass NASA's conservative tramping culture – in sharp contrast to SLS. (SpaceX builders have beaten the MK-1 outdoors in just a few months and exposed it to the elements – far from the huge, sterile hangars where NASA builds its multiyear projects.) But Starship is not on the right track the gaps in NASA. There is no launcher to launch the spacecraft capsule into space. Not to mention life support systems. The equipment needed to keep man alive.

Bridenstine tweeted Thursday (October 3) that the two had spoken on the phone, indicating that they had reconciled. According to Musk, SpaceX continues to focus on Crew Dragon and estimates that Starship uses only 5% of the company's resources.

Originally published on Live Science .

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(image credits: Future plc)

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