Recent developments in private-sector American space exploration work may bring us a few steps closer to re-establishing our manned spaceflight program nationally.
Reports today from The Verge show SpaceX will launch a Falcon 9 rocket from a Florida location soon, and assess a likely malfunction in which the rocket breaks apart, in order to design systems that will protect astronauts in the case of future rocket failure.
The program, which is apparently required by NASA’s Commercial Crew standards program, will evaluate how an astronaut escape would work if one of the rockets fails significantly.
Histories of American manned space flights show that the last American space shuttle run was completed in 2011. There’s been a significant hiatus, and now SpaceX appears to be consolidating its jurisdiction over American spaceflight, replacing the bureaucracy-led space programs of the 1980s.
The Crew Dragon system, as it’s called, has a lot of potential for sending Americans back into space.
“If all goes well, then the next flight milestone for SpaceX is to put people on board the Crew Dragon,” writes Loren Grush, noting that two astronauts, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, are lined up to be first on the Dragon’s crew to achieve a relatively quick trip to the international space station.
Could 2020, as a nice round number, be the year for the next ove in American space travel?
It’s entirely possible: reports from late last year show that NASA has actually been trying to get private companies to achieve this milestone for a few years. Coverage by Mike Wall at Space.com reveals that NASA gave billions of dollars to both SpaceX and Boeing to those ends, while only the former firm has come close to launch.
We’ll continue to bring news on how these efforts develop.