The big picture: The launch at 2:48 pm Saturday marks the shift from government-led space missions to public-private partnerships, in which billionaires like SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk will share credit for US space exploration. .
- This will be the first time that a privately built spacecraft designed to carry astronauts will be launched at the space station.
- By the end of the year or early next year, US astronauts and their cargo will travel to the International Space Station (ISS) with rockets built by private companies.
Details: During this six-day mission, SpaceX's Crew Dragon will attempt to anchor autonomously in the ISS, testing most of the crew's transport system capabilities.
- The launch of the demo is part of NASA 's long – delayed commercial program, in which $ 6.8 billion of combined contracts were awarded to SpaceX and Boeing of Elon Musk for the launch of the company. astronauts and cargo to the ISS. The contracts amount to $ 4.312 billion to Boeing and $ 2.5 billion to SpaceX, according to NASA.
- Even if no one will participate in the capsule on Saturday, it will include a sensor named "Ripley" (a tribute to "Alien") containing sensors that will allow SpaceX and NASA officials to get a better idea of what they are doing. a person would be exposed. to in terms of G-forces and radiation.
- Boeing will test its CST-100 Starliner in March.
- Test flights are steps to certify the safety of the spacecraft of these companies prior to crew test flights.
Yes, but: Before being able to send human beings into space, SpaceX and Boeing must meet stringent safety requirements, including limiting the risk of permanent loss or incapacity of the crew to an equal chance or less than 1 in 270.
- Such a standard is stricter than that used for NASA's Shuttle program.
- Difficulties in meeting crew loss requirements, as well as design and production issues, resulted in considerable delays in the commercial team program, so much so that NASA had to consider plans to emergency to maintain access to ISS if Boeing or SpaceX were ready to launch safely.
- The demo-1 flight should reveal flaws in the SpaceX system to repair them, says NASA.
"I really think we're going to learn something about this flight," he said. "I guarantee you that everything will not work properly, and that's cool, that's exactly what we want to do."
– Bill Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator of NASA's Manned Spaceflight Program, at a pre-launch briefing
- NASA is guarding against the possibility of further delays by considering the purchase of two additional Soyuz seats in 2019 and 2020, reports Space News.
What to watch: NASA oversees and certifies these companies, but now assumes the role of support player.
But that does not mean that NASA is taking second place, said Eric Stallmer, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, which promotes the development of the commercial space sector.
- "NASA is an iconic brand and will continue to do incredible things," Stallmer told Axios. He says that SpaceX, Boeing and other private spaceflight company logos could be seen with the same respect in the future.
- "We are a commercial nation," he says. He called it "a national embarrassment" that the United States spent about 8 years with the ability to launch their own astronauts.
And after: An unarmed flight abandonment test will be conducted after the demonstration mission 1. Assuming all is well and the company meets the certification requirements, the first crewed SpaceX test flight to ISS, with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aboard, could take off as early as July. Boeing's chronology is also moving at about the same pace.