Metropolitan Digital

  • Written by Wendy Whitman Cobb, Professor of Strategy and Security Studies, US Air Force School of Advanced Air and Space Studies

On May 27, two American astronauts, Robert L. Behnken[1] and Douglas G. Hurley[2], are planning to launch from the Kennedy Space Center on a mission to the International Space Station. If successful, this will mark the first time in nine years that American astronauts will launch into space from American soil. What’s even more remarkable is they will not be launched by NASA but by a private company, SpaceX.

Human spaceflight is incredibly difficult and expensive; the rockets must be reliable and the vehicle must be built with expensive life support systems and a certain level of redundancy. To date, only three countries – Russia, the United States and China – have achieved this feat.

As a space policy expert[3], I find it hard to overstate the significance for both SpaceX and spaceflight in general. For SpaceX, it’s another step on their road to Mars, but more generally, it demonstrates that spaceflight need not be reserved for only the most powerful of states.

SpaceX reaches for milestone in spaceflight – a private company launches astronauts into orbit Astronauts Douglas Hurley (left) and Robert Behnken before boarding the Gulfstream jet that will carry them to Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA/James Blair[4]

A dream and an opening

In many ways, SpaceX’s achievement is due not only to technological advances, but opportunity brought about by disaster. The breakup of the space shuttle Columbia in 2003 led the Bush administration to decide[5] to end the shuttle program by 2010. They directed NASA to develop a replacement, Project Constellation[6], but due to budget cuts and other problems, NASA failed to make significant progress. As a result, in 2010, the Obama administration directed NASA[7] to refocus its efforts on deep space missions and rely on private companies to provide access to the ISS and low Earth orbit.

SpaceX reaches for milestone in spaceflight – a private company launches astronauts into orbit The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft is designed to carry up to seven passengers. NASA/Kim Shiflett[8]

Enter SpaceX. Dreaming of colonization of Mars but frustrated with the slow pace at which it was coming, Elon Musk founded SpaceX in 2002. To get to Mars, he decided that spaceflight would first need to be made cheaper. His philosophy was to devise a rocket system that could be used again and again with minimal refurbishment between flights. Over the next decade, SpaceX designed, built and tested its Falcon series of rockets. It signed contracts with NASA[9] to provide cargo services to the ISS and with other companies and the U.S. military to provide general launch services. Perhaps most importantly, SpaceX has demonstrated that its rockets can be reused, with the core stages flying their way back to Earth to land themselves.

The 2010 shift in American space policy gave SpaceX an opportunity to build on its early successes. By 2014, both SpaceX and Boeing were given contracts[10] from NASA to provide commercial crew launch services. And it appears, so far, that SpaceX has made good on its promise of reducing the cost of human spaceflight. Compared to an average space shuttle mission that cost US$1.6 billion[11], NASA is paying only $55 million[12] per seat for SpaceX’s upcoming ISS flights.

SpaceX reaches for milestone in spaceflight – a private company launches astronauts into orbit A picture taken June 13, 2007 in Paris shows the inside part of the mock-up of the future tourism plane-rocket, made by the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company EADS Astrium branch. OLIVIER LABAN-MATTEI/AFP via Getty Images[13]

Tourists in space?

This massive reduction in cost made possible through reusable rockets is contributing to several developments in spaceflight. First, it provides NASA a means of access to the ISS without relying on the Russian Soyuz. Since 2011, the U.S. has been paying Russia[14] upwards of $86 million per seat for flights to the space station.

Second, with SpaceX and Boeing providing access to the ISS, NASA can concentrate on Project Artemis[15], which intends to return humans to the Moon by 2024. They are also leveraging new commercial capabilities from SpaceX, Blue Origin and others to further reduce costs to get there.

If SpaceX is successful, it could also mean the opening of space to tourism. Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are planning to offer brief suborbital launches[16] that don’t enter Earth orbit. SpaceX, on the other hand, is already signing up passengers[17] for several-day trips to space at $35 million a seat. Even Tom Cruise is looking to fly[18] on SpaceX and film a movie aboard the ISS. While space companies have long predicted opportunities for space tourism, SpaceX’s Dragon brings that possibility closer to reality.

More broadly, adding tourists to the mix in low Earth orbit may even help make space safer. Debris in orbit is a growing problem, along with increasing tensions between the U.S., China and Russia in space. Both of those things make operating in space more difficult, dangerous and costlier.

For the space economy to really take off, countries will need to put in place regulations that ensure safety and reliability in several areas, including vehicle safety and debris mitigation. And, as I suggest in my new book[19], having more humans in space might force countries to think twice before taking potentially dangerous actions in space. While orbital space tourism might still be far off for the average American, SpaceX’s crew launch brings us closer to the day when an extraordinary event is a normal occurrence.

[Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter[20].]

References

  1. ^ Robert L. Behnken (www.nasa.gov)
  2. ^ Douglas G. Hurley (www.nasa.gov)
  3. ^ a space policy expert (scholar.google.com)
  4. ^ NASA/James Blair (blogs.nasa.gov)
  5. ^ the Bush administration to decide (history.nasa.gov)
  6. ^ Project Constellation (www.globalsecurity.org)
  7. ^ the Obama administration directed NASA (www.sciencedirect.com)
  8. ^ NASA/Kim Shiflett (blogs.nasa.gov)
  9. ^ contracts with NASA (www.spacex.com)
  10. ^ SpaceX and Boeing were given contracts (spacenews.com)
  11. ^ space shuttle mission that cost US$1.6 billion (www.space.com)
  12. ^ NASA is paying only $55 million (www.space.com)
  13. ^ OLIVIER LABAN-MATTEI/AFP via Getty Images (www.gettyimages.com)
  14. ^ U.S. has been paying Russia (www.space.com)
  15. ^ Project Artemis (www.nasa.gov)
  16. ^ brief suborbital launches (www.cnbc.com)
  17. ^ signing up passengers (www.space.com)
  18. ^ Tom Cruise is looking to fly (www.forbes.com)
  19. ^ in my new book (www.amazon.com)
  20. ^ Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter (theconversation.com)

Authors: Wendy Whitman Cobb, Professor of Strategy and Security Studies, US Air Force School of Advanced Air and Space Studies

Read more https://theconversation.com/spacex-reaches-for-milestone-in-spaceflight-a-private-company-launches-astronauts-into-orbit-138765

Metropolitan republishes selected articles from The Conversation USA with permission

Visit The Conversation to see more

Entertainment News

REBECCA “DAWGGONE" DAVIS” Weight of the World

When people hear my song “Weight of the World” for the first time, they always wonder if I somehow knew 2020 would be a year like no other in our history. Was there any conscious thought predictin...

Rebecca Davis - avatar Rebecca Davis

WENDY MOTEN I’ve Got You Covered

WENDY MOTEN may have launched her career as a pop/R&B artist and taken cool detours into jazz along the way, but her heart clearly belongs to NashvilleWendy Moten may have launched her career ...

News Company - avatar News Company

Smooth Jazz Music Legend “Dr. Dave” Releases An Homage To The Tonight Show

Writing and recording smooth jazz albums and performing live over the past 25 years, I’ve learned that people react most powerfully to a song’s rhythms. If you’ve got a great beat that they can mo...

Dr. Dave - avatar Dr. Dave

Singer/Songwriter Darrell Kelley Talks Music and Social Relevance

I feel very blessed that two of my songs, “The Coronavirus” and “Because of You,” are currently in the Top Five on the World Indie Music charts and continue to grow in influence, with over 100,0...

Darrell Kelley - avatar Darrell Kelley

How to Create a Melody on the Piano

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be able to write a song? Maybe you’ve wondered how anybody goes about writing a song? Once you understand how music works, you can use building b...

News Company - avatar News Company

MUSIC SENSATION WILLIE J RELEASES NEW SINGLE TO AID CORONA RELIEF

In the midst of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, the release of “In the Morning” on Pure Mission Entertainment – the label he partners on with Aaron Emig - follows on the heels of the global s...

Tom Estey - avatar Tom Estey

Expert Advice: Indie Record Producing and Engineering

My career as an independent artist evolved out of my career as an entrepreneur and restaurant owner. I moved to from my hometown of Boston Atlanta in 2013 and opened my soul food restaurant Soul D...

Darrell Kelley - avatar Darrell Kelley

Weight of The World

When the calm of the world is at stake, and every message of hope is crucial to our collective peace of mind and the endurance of the human spirit, it’s not only possible, but essential to present any...

Tom Estey - avatar Tom Estey

DARRELL KELLEY “The Coronavirus”

Even though I have been releasing tracks and albums since 2018, I never considered myself an artist until I started getting responses from people telling me that my songs were resonating with them. ...

DARRELL KELLEY - avatar DARRELL KELLEY

Metropolitan Business News

New Research Highlights Opportunities for Sports Betting

Revenue Stream for Sports’ Post-COVID-19 Recovery Strategies New Rochelle, NY, June 1, 2020— Twenty-four states have now legalized sports betting, with more states considering legalization la...

Len Stein - avatar Len Stein

How to make overseas transfers easier?

Mainstream banks can charge as much as $20 just to process a basic international money transfer. Fortunately, today people are not doomed to handling personal finances only through mainstream gl...

News Company - avatar News Company

The flourishing international market of fragrance and perfume

There is something special and unique about the art of fragrance. This is a big world and there are quite literally a lot of smells around at any given time. In fact, as one of the five human senses i...

News Company - avatar News Company

Impact of good marketing on sales

Sales and marketing are brothers as they go hand and in hand. The job of both of these departments is to generate revenue so that an organization can make money. A company that does not generate rev...

News Company - avatar News Company

7 effective tips for increasing sales in retail

It seems that retailers have drawn a difficult lot in the 21st century: competition from online retail is growing steadily. After all, Internet retailers can sell your products at significantly lowe...

News Company - avatar News Company

10 Reasons to Use Labels

People cannot stop biting their nails, considering the messy condition of their homes. You open your kitchen drawer to grab some utensils, but instead, you take a glance at toys lying inside that dr...

News Company - avatar News Company

Holidays

5 COOL GADGETS TO CARRY FOR A SAFE TRIP

Are you planning to go on a trip? Possibly, you do not know what things are most necessary on a trip. In this article, we will guide you through some important tips. These tips help you to...

News Company - avatar News Company

New Baggage Regulations to Help Aussie Parents Travel with Infants

Travelling around the globe has never been easy, especially when infants tag along for the trip. One of the main issues that parents often have to deal with is the need to bring extra item...

News Company - avatar News Company

Maya Beach Opens to Tourists

Despite recent reports that Southern Thailand's famous Maya Beach will close for three months this year, in fact no decision to this effect has been made by Thai authorities. Phi Phi Nati...

Maevadi Rosenfeldt - avatar Maevadi Rosenfeldt



METRO DIGITAL NEWS

Breaking News & Opinion