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SpaceX can reuse Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon to deliver people to the ISS

May 30, 2020 SpaceX made its firstmanned space flight - and it so happened that it also became the first space launch for the United States from its own territory in almost 10 years. After the Crew Dragon ship successfully delivered the astronauts to the ISS, the United States can make such launches independently and much cheaper - if only SpaceX can reuse the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon itself, this is actually the whole essence of this large-scale experiment. Now the company Ilona Mask has officially received permission to do this.

SpaceX will be able to launch astronauts on the same ship

New launch of SpaceX Crew Dragon

If initially in the contract NASA and SpaceX did notthe reuse of the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule was mentioned, now the American aerospace agency has made the corresponding changes. Apparently, NASA was waiting for the end of the first manned space flight of the company - if the ship, for example, could not dock to the ISS, contact with SpaceX would be frozen indefinitely.

Other than that, Crew Dragon's flight testDemo-2 program extended from 14 to 119 days. This means that astronauts Douglas Hurley and Bob Benken, who flew to the ISS in late May, can stay there for about 4 months.

In the future they will be required to leavespace station, since Crew Dragon must return to Earth after this period. Of course, nothing prevents NASA from again amending the contract with SpaceX, but it is unlikely that the astronauts themselves will want to be there for so long. Given that on Crew Dragon no one has yet returned from space to Earth.

After US officials turnedSpace Shuttle due to the too high (and unjustified) cost of each flight, NASA began to send American astronauts into space using Russian rockets and Soyuz spacecraft. Now, when it became clear that SpaceX can independently transport cargo and people to the ISS, the aerospace agency can stop flights on Soyuz or send astronauts on two ships at once - Russian and American, just at different times. True, this is unlikely to be economically viable.

Spent Falcon 9 stage, which will be launched back into space

How much is the launch of SpaceX Crew Dragon

Even without reusing rocketsThe cost of launching the Falcon 9 is $ 61.2 million, including fuel and all associated costs. At the same time, up to 10 percent of the cost of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle falls on the nasal thermal protection. For comparison, NASA pays $ 20 million more for each round-trip astronaut on the Soyuz. The heavier Falcon Heavy rocket is capable of bringing up to 53,000 kilograms of cargo into low Earth orbit, and up to 21,200 kilograms into geosynchronous orbit. The launch of such a rocket will cost one and a half times more expensive and will cost $ 90 million.

Low Earth Orbit has a height of 160 to 2000 kilometers above the surface of the planet. While geosynchronous orbit has a height of 35 786 kilometers above sea level.

Reusable missiles can significantly reducethe cost of launching valuable goods and people into space - 30 percent - which will make space travel more attractive and acceptable. Compared to how much the United States spent on each Shuttle flight, this is a real gift for the country's budget. This was the main point of launching SpaceX Crew Dragon: if such flights cost the same as under the Space Shuttle program (or only a little cheaper), they simply would not make sense. It’s easier then to continue sending American astronauts to the “Unions”.

If NASA allows SpaceX againuse the first stage of the Falcon 9, there was almost no doubt (the company has repeatedly carried out repeated launches), but with Crew Dragon everything is not so clear. In fact, SpaceX will be able to “catch” the ship after the astronauts return to Earth (for safety, landing in the ocean next to the SpaceX employees who are stationed on the ship), update it a bit, and then send it back to the ISS - with another crew . Or make a cargo launch, so as not to risk the lives of astronauts once again. Share your thoughts on this in our Telegram chat.

Crew Dragon capsule after the first flight to the ISS

Ship Crew Dragon SpaceX

Crew Dragon has a very interesting story. This ship was developed for almost 20 years, but only after the arrival of Ilon Mask and NASA support in 2014, Dragon got a chance for the first flight. The ship is equipped with 16 Draco power plants for maneuvering and 8 SuperDraco engines - in case the crew needs emergency rescue. In fact, these engines turn the device into a “mini rocket”, which, even if it cannot launch the spacecraft into space, is capable of making it fully controllable.

Crew Dragon with 8 SuperDraco engines running

Also recently, SpaceX announced plans to test-launch a cargo version of the Crew Dragon, designed to carry up to six tons of cargo. Presumably, the flight will take place in the fall of 2020.