Space X: The next generation of flight
“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too,” said President John F. Kennedy, on Sept. 12, 1962, at Rice University, Houston, Tex.
With these famous words JFK challenged Americans to come together behind a failing space program and become the first nation to put a man on the moon. The momentous accomplishment has woven its way into who we are as Americans.
In recent years the world has come together to construct a scientific dream , an international space station on the frontiers of space. Much of this space station was carried into space and assembled by crews of NASA’s STS or as it is commonly known Space Shuttle Program.
“Wheels stop” was declared for the shuttle program as it came to an end, after 135 missions, in July of 2011 with the final flight of Shuttle Atlantis. With a close to the Space Shuttle chapter of American space history many people asked what next? Would America leave the frontier of space?
In response NASA administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement, “America is opening a bold new chapter in human space exploration…We are recommitting ourselves to American leadership in space for years to come.”
According to a press release from July 2011, NASA has plans to build a more environmentally friendly space program that will include design “to send humans to explore the solar system.” NASA has also committed to maintaining the American international space station crew of six astronauts 24 hours 365 days a year.
For now NASA is also turning to the private sector to find solutions. NASA is working and funding programs with a number of private space taxi firms including Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), The Boeing Company, and Sierra Nevada Corp.
SpaceX has already launched two unmanned missions for NASA bringing supplies to the International Space Station. On its last flight launch on Oct. 7, one of the Falcon 9 rockets that propels SpaceX’s craft “detected an anomaly on one first stage engine,” said SpaceX in a statement after the event, that required it to be shut down by the spacecrafts computer system. The “anomaly” happend during a pressure release that ruptured “the fairing that protects the engine from aerodynamic loads.” This problem paired with pressure problems in another launch earlier on Oct. 4 have caused the air force to postpone the planned Oct. 25 launch date for space plane X-37B to Nov. 13, because they are still waiting on further data analysis from the events.
Despite this hiccup launches, all three companies are preparing for the future of space transportation and have entered into our generations space race. Each of the three companies have made plans and are preparing for manned launch dates. SpaceX as soon as 2015 with a refitted version of its current Dragon space capsule, followed by Boeing’s CTS-100 in 2016, and Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser space plane soon to follow.
SpaceX recently participated in the first annual Spacecraft Technology Expo. The Spacecraft Technology Expo which is already planning for its May 2013 event in Long Beach California seeks to bring together designers and manufacturers that are working in areas related to space exploration. SpaceX showcased its manned version of the Dragon at the 2012 event, after passing important reviews by NASA engineers and former shuttle astronauts.
While all three companies (SpaceX, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada) are currently funded by NASA with the goal of getting Americans into space on American aircrafts, what they will do after the goal is accomplished is still up in the air (no pun intended). “Once we have this thing up and running for NASA we are free to use it for other purposes,” said Reisman senior engineer at SpaceX. Possibilities for other uses for SpaceX’s Dragon and its competitors spacecrafts include a full range from the transport of the astronaut scientist to the “space tourist.”
The future of space technology looks bright both in the sky and on the ground in the carriers and scientific information being made available. With space technology becoming a private affair anything is possible. All we have to do is choose to do it. Given the chance will you choose to go to space?