According tomedia, the United States local time on the afternoon of 27, SpaceX will be the first to send the first passengers into space, which may herald a new era of manned spaceflight in the United States. It will be the first manned rocket launch on the U.S. mainland in nearly a decade, and the first time a manned rocket has been launched into space by a private company.By CHINA.
The historic rocket launch is also a test for SpaceX, a major milestone in NASA’s commercial space manned program. In this experimental program, private companies will build new spacecraft for NASA to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station. SpaceX’s contribution to the program is a stylish, rubber-sugar-shaped spaceship called Crew Dragon. Although the Dragon spacecraft has flown several times before, it has not carried out a manned flight.
It took SpaceX six years to get to this point. Last year, the company conducted a full test flight and successfully launched the Dragon spacecraft to the space station without a manned mission. The company also tested the capsule’s emergency escape system, confirming that even if the Dragon spacecraft had a problem during launch, it could send passengers to safety. SpaceX has also suffered a number of setbacks, including a rocket failure and an explosion in the Dragon capsule during ground testing last year. SpaceX has addressed these problems and says the failures are “gifts” to help the company build safer spaceships.
Now, it’s time for the Dragon spacecraft to “carry people.” The dragon’s first two passengers were NASA veterans Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, who were assigned to the mission in 2018. After two years of training by NASA and SpaceX for the flight, they are ready to put on SpaceX’s custom space suit and enter the spacecraft.
Here’s why this launch is so important, what to look at, and what it means for NASA and SpaceX in the future.
Get rid of dependence on Russia and return manned spaceflight to the U.S.
On July 8, 2011, NASA’s space shuttle made its final flight and the last time an astronaut was launched into orbit from the Continental United States. Since then, all NASA astronauts and international partners have flown to the space station aboard Russia’s Soyuz capsule. That leaves NASA paying $80 million per person for each flight, which has long been THE only option for NASA to send astronauts to the space station.
SpaceX’s Dragon ship (left) and Boeing’s CST-100 Interstellar (right)
To end its dependence on another country, NASA decided to work with private companies to bring manned spaceflight back to the United States. Through the commercial manned space program, NASA and two companies have signed contracts: SpaceX and Boeing, to develop their own vehicles to transport NASA astronauts to the space station and back to Earth. NASA paid SpaceX $3.14 billion for the development and launch of the Dragon spacecraft, while Boeing received $4.8 billion for the development and launch of the CST-100 Starliner.
Over the years, there has been fierce competition between the two companies. Both companies have experienced numerous technical delays and setbacks, but in the end, SpaceX has been at the top of the list. If all goes well, SpaceX will become the first private company ever to put humans into orbit.
Astronauts take Tesla Model X to launch site
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle will be launched at the Kennedy Space Center launch site in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The launch site is known as the 39A launch site, and on July 16, 1969, the Apollo 11 spacecraft took off from 39A to complete the first human mission to the moon. SpaceX began leasing the site from NASA in 2014 and has undergone a renovation for the launch of the Falcon 9 and the Heavy Falcon rocket.
Dressed in SpaceX’s custom space suit, astronauts Behnken and Hurley will head to the launch pad around 1 p.m. EST. All of this is labeled musk’s personal label: the two astronauts will ride in a white Tesla Model X, which will be decorated with NASA logos to make the car look cooler. Upon arrival at the launch pad, the two men will take the elevator to the top of the Falcon 9 rocket and then pass through the suspended corridor known as the Crew Passage Arm to the entrance to the Dragon spacecraft.
Behnken and Hurley will enter the capsule and close the door, which will begin to fuel the rocket. This part of the process has caused considerable controversy in the space industry. When the shuttle was still in use in the past, fuel was added before the astronauts boarded the plane, a step that could be risky. However, SpaceX chose to add fuel about half an hour before launch, after the astronauts had already entered. Because the company uses extremely cold propellants and injects them before take-off, it limits overheating and boiling, improving the rocket’s performance.
The access arm to the Dragon Ship. Photo: SpaceX
After nearly two years of debate, NASA approved SpaceX’s injection of rocket fuel after astronauts enter the capsule.
Once all the propellant is injected into the rocket, it will be launched soon. SpaceX is scheduled to launch at 4:33 p.m. EST. The company must launch at this exact time or it will have to postpone it until Saturday, May 30, the backup launch date.
Dragon spacecraft brings its own toilet and will automatically dock with the space station
If all goes according to plan, it will be a fast trip to space for the two astronauts. The Falcon 9 rocket will release the Dragon spacecraft into low-Earth orbit about 12 minutes after takeoff. The rocket will then return to Earth and land on an unmanned spacecraft in the Atlantic Ocean.
For the next 19 hours, the astronauts will orbit the Earth. During this time, the Dragon spacecraft will be able to catch up with the International Space Station by turning on the engine on a regular basis and accelerating slightly. Inside the capsule, Behnken and Hurley can sleep and use the capsule’s toilet sane if they are in a hurry.
SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft approaches the International Space Station during its first test flight in 2019. Photo: NASA
The Dragon spacecraft requires astronauts to do very little in flight, but for testing, Hurley and Behnken will make some manual flights before they reach the space station. “Obviously we want to make sure that the crew knows more about the Dragon spacecraft in case it has to be flown manually in some cases in the future. Hurley said at a news conference. Hurley is scheduled to manually control the Dragon spacecraft once it reaches orbit and as it approaches the space station.
But in fact, this is also the Dragon spacecraft’s autonomous docking system shines. This is a feature that SpaceX’s previous cargo Dragon spacecraft lacked in delivering supplies to the International Space Station. During the cargo mission, astronauts on the space station need to use a robotic arm to grab the upcoming Dragon spacecraft and bring it closer to the International Space Station. Now, with the upgraded Dragon spacecraft, there is no need for human help. Once Hurley completes the artificial flight, the Dragon spacecraft’s automatic docking system will start when it approaches the space station. With a series of sensors and cameras, the capsule will automatically fly to the International Space Station and connect to an open docking port.
If the launch goes ahead as planned, the docking with the space station will take place at 11:29 a.m. EST on Thursday, May 28.
Back to Earth
When the dragon’s hatch opens, Behnken and Hurley will rendezvous with NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner on the International Space Station. Hurley said Cassidy recently sent them an email about their upcoming reunion in space. “He said he was looking forward to seeing our ugly face on the space station,” Hurley recalls.
NASA had planned to keep astronauts on the space station for only a few weeks. But the original plan changed due to the extension of the commercial space shuttle program and the extension of the development time for SpaceX and Boeing’s manned spacecraft. The first manned flights were expected to take place in 2017 and will be available on a regular basis by 2020. NASA bought some seats for the Russian spacecraft, which are almost exhausted, and Cassidy’s mission is now to operate the U.S.-led space station.
About six months ago, NASA decided to extend Behnken and Hurley’s time in space to allow more astronauts aboard the International Space Station. It now looks likely that they will be in space for a few months, and although NASA has not yet decided when the astronauts will return, the Dragon spacecraft will only be able to stay in space for about four months because of solar panel restrictions. The thin atmosphere in space can degrade the performance of solar panels over time, limiting the spacecraft’s life in orbit.
Pictured is the Dragon’s four parachutes, which fell into the ocean during a flight test in 2019 Picture: NASA
NASA says it will decide on a return date after astronauts go into space. As an additional insurance measure, NASA recently purchased another seat on a Russian Soyuz flight this fall to prevent it in case.
When the time comes, Behnken and Hurley will return to the Dragon spacecraft, close the hatchand and leave the space station. They will distance themselves from the International Space Station and then cross the Earth’s atmosphere. The Dragon’s four parachutes will open, allowing the spacecraft to slowly fall, and the capsule will eventually land safely in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast.
Weather becomes uncertain, launch may be delayed
SpaceX spent years testing and inspecting the launch to ensure the safety of the launch. But the launch was also a test, and the fear of failure haunts many people’s minds. In the event of an accident, the built-in emergency escape system provides additional protection for astronauts.
A miniature thruster called the SuperDraco engine is embedded in the outer wall of the Dragon spacecraft. These thrusters are designed to be used during flight and to power the Dragon spacecraft’s escape system in case of a catastrophic failure. The SuperDraco engine can lift the Dragon spacecraft into the air and away from the failed rocket, and once far enough is there, the capsule’s parachute can be deployed and the spacecraft will fall into the Atlantic Ocean.
It’s a kind of operation that only needs to be done in an emergency, but SpaceX claims that it can be done at any time during the flight to near-Earth orbit, which in effect means that NASA and SpaceX have a fairly limited launch time for the mission. The launch abort could allow the Dragon spacecraft to land in an extremely wide area of the Atlantic Ocean, and NASA needs to ensure that the capsule has good weather conditions at every possible landing site for search and rescue.
“We’re actually looking at the waves, we’re looking at the speed and high waves, because in the event of an emergency escape after launch, we need to make sure they can land in a safe area so that the rescue forces can pick them up,” he said. Benji Reed, SpaceX’s head of manned missions, said at a news conference. SpaceX will consider weather conditions in more than 50 locations, from the east coast of the United States to Canada and even across the Atlantic to Northern Ireland. This means that the launch is likely to be delayed by the weather.
So far, the weather conditions on the day of the May 27 launch have been changing, but today, the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing in Florida predicted a 60 percent chance of an environment conducive to the launch.
Starting a new era of commercial manned spaceflight?
When Behnken and Hurley return to Earth and return home, they can begin to think about making this space travel the norm — and that’s what commercial space missions are all about. SpaceX and NASA will study the data collected during the test flight and use the information to determine whether the Dragon spacecraft can make regular trips to and from the International Space Station.
SpaceX’s next fully operational Dragon spacecraft mission will take place in a few months. There will be four astronauts on board. NASA astronauts Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, Shannon Walker and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi. The flight is expected to take place early this fall, which will cement a new era in which commercial companies send humans to the space station.