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SpaceX will help NASA send people to the ISS for the first time in 10 years: "Russia is no longer needed"?

May 27, 2020 SpaceX plans to hold the firstthe manned flight of the Crew Dragon spaceship, which is supposed to deliver American astronauts to the ISS. Bob Benke and Doug Hurley will be the first people sent into space aboard a private spacecraft. However, it is much more important for the US space industry that this flight will be the first manned mission on an American-made ship and rocket since 2011. Yes, the United States has not independently sent people into space for almost 10 years! It's hard to believe if you remember what resources NASA has, but the facts speak for themselves.

This is a big step for SpaceX, but an even bigger step for NASA and all of America.

All this time the American aerospaceThe agency bought seats on the Russian spacecraft Soyuz to send astronauts to the ISS. For each such flight (one astronaut back and forth) NASA had to pay about 85 million dollars at a flight cost of 5 million dollars. That is, sending a space mission of two people will already cost around $ 170 million.

For comparison, the cost of launching the reusable Falcon 9 launch vehicle, which will launch the Crew Dragon spacecraft, is about 60 million dollars. And this is despite the fact that after launch this rocket should safely land on Earth (with the best outcome of events) and in the future can be reused.

No wonder NASA launched its programCommercial Crew to stimulate the development of new US-made spacecraft. The NASA and SpaceX joint program is designed for just that.

A rocket with astronauts is already waiting for the countdown

Content

  • 1 Manned space flights
  • 2 Why shut down the Space Shuttle
  • 3 Which countries sent a person into space
  • 4 Flight to the ISS SpaceX Crew Dragon

Manned space flights

As Americans used to send theirastronauts? From 1961 to 1975, flights were carried out on US-made ships - Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. It was precisely in the framework of the Apollo mission in 1969 (11th in a row) that the Americans first landed on the moon. And although there are those who claim that a person has not yet stepped onto the surface of the Earth’s satellite, the facts suggest the opposite. Since 1981, the United States has conducted 135 manned launches into space on reusable spacecraft. Space Shuttle, and there were missions during which up to 8 people were simultaneously sent to space. It was a record - up to 3 people can still be sent into space on the same Soyuz.

Yes, in parallel with the Space Shuttles mannedthe flights were arranged by the USSR, and then Russia - first on the Vostok spaceship (on which the first man Yuri Gagarin went into space) and Voskhod, and then on various modifications of the Soyuz. From 1967 to 2019, all versions of the "Union" made a total of 138 flights. AND "Union"and the Space Shuttle was not only sent into spaceRussian and American astronauts, respectively: over the years, the passengers of these ships were both Spanish astronauts who participated in the NASA's STS-95 Discovery program, and Malaysian, African and even Korean astronauts who flew various modifications of the Soyuz in 2000 years. Basically, such joint launches were commercial: other countries bought their cosmonauts seats in the Soyuz and Shuttles, because they did not have their own ability to launch a man into space. Or did not see this urgent need.

The Americans had 135 Shuttle flights before closing the program

Why shut down the Space Shuttle

July 21, 2011 last landedthe reusable Space Shuttle, Atlantis, and this was the completion of the entire Shuttle space program. Why? According to estimates made in 2010 (shortly before the program was closed), the Space Shuttle program cost the US government about 210 billion dollars. Most of this amount was spent on servicing spacecraft between launches, as well as fuel. Each flight cost 200-500 million dollars.

The problem of the Shuttles was that withWith the development of technology, the cost of launches did not decrease, which, for example, is what Elon Musk is seeking with his reusable missiles, but increased. Therefore, it was easier for NASA to buy a seat for one astronaut on Soyuz for $ 85 million than to spend several times more on developing its own spacecraft.

What countries sent a person into space

In addition to Russia and the USA, independently withdrawMan in space was only possible for China (who would doubt it). The first manned flight of the Shenzhou-5 spacecraft made China in 2003 the third country in the world to send man into space on its own. At the same time, preparations for it went on for almost 40 years! Then, China made several more successful manned launches, the last of which, “Shenzhou-11,” was held on November 18, 2016. Then, a successful docking was conducted with the Tiangong-2 space laboratory, and the astronauts were even able to make several experiments in zero gravity. After 3 years, "Tiangong-2" completed its work and made a controlled descent from orbit. The station collapsed in the dense atmosphere.

Now China is preparing to ship to orbitbase module of its space station. Engineers hope that the station will be able to work for many years and will eventually replace the ISS in orbit, which should complete its work in 2024. For this reason, China will systematically develop its space station, adding to it all new modules - their launches have already been scheduled for the next four years. Technically, the new station will be owned by China, but will open its doors to all UN member countries, public and private organizations.

Chinese space station project

For China, space projects are very important,since the US has banned the Chinese space agency from using the ISS “for security reasons.” In 2011, the U.S. Congress banned any space program collaboration between the United States and China.

Flight to the ISS SpaceX Crew Dragon

Only due to the fact that the company Ilona Maskmanaged to significantly reduce the cost of space flights, the United States is again ready to enter the space race on its ships. It is worth recognizing that this return looks spectacular: for example, astronauts have already gone to their rocket on the brand new Tesla with the NASA logo.

A special version of Tesla for NASA astronauts. After all, everyone wants a car, like an astronaut? Brilliant marketing move

And also showed Crew Dragon Inside - it looks more like a ship from a movie"Interstellar" than the usual for many aircraft (which before that inside looked like a terrible nightmare pilot "Concord"). Elon Musk is not only a brilliant entrepreneur, but also an excellent showman, so you should not expect anything else from him.

So Crew Dragon looks from the inside. Touch screens, solid hi-tech, just like in the movie "Interstellar"

And here is one of the generations of the “Union” that looks from the inside

But it’s one thing to make a bright show, andthe other is to send a person into space, which SpaceX has never done (and NASA, too, since 2011). A little over a year ago, SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft was sent to the ISS on top of the reusable Falcon 9 booster rocket. There were no living people inside the ship: they were replaced by the mannequin of the main character of the Alien science fiction film series - Ripley. The SpaceX Crew Demo-1 mission was successful, and the device docked to the International Space Station without any problems. Successful docking proved that NASA will cease to be dependent on Russian technology and will be able to deliver astronauts using SpaceX. The device can work autonomously and is equipped with a life support system, but it is also equipped with a manual control panel so that in case of a problem pilots can take control of themselves.

Docking Crew Dragon to the ISS without a crew. March 2, 2019

SpaceX had a lot of problems with this before.aircraft, which the company was able to eliminate by launch on the ISS in 2019. But even after this, the problems did not end. So, a month later, during the tests of the engines of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, an “anomaly” happened - the company itself dubbed it. During the countdown and burning of the engines, the ship took and exploded. Later, the company conducted an investigation and found out that the problem was in the system of pressurization of tanks. There is a valve that is responsible for passing helium towards the fuel tanks. Usually it works like a clock, but just at that time it began to function incorrectly: the valve allowed a “return stroke”, which caused fuel to enter the tank with helium. This error was later fixed, but where is the guarantee that some other problem will not be revealed during the countdown before the flight on May 27?

SpaceX later revealed another problem - inidle parachutes for the soft return of the ship to Earth. The SpaceX team wanted to make sure that the Crew Dragon safe landing system could provide a soft landing even if one of the four parachutes failed. They intentionally ruined one parachute and dropped the capsule from a great height, but the other three parachutes simply did not open. Not very good news, because the American astronauts who fly to the ISS on this ship must return to Earth with the help of such a capsule.

You can try your hand at the real simulator of docking Crew Dragon with the ISS. That is how everyone will see astronauts in front of them!

You can continue to consider accident Crew Dragon and build negative scenarios. But at the same time, the fact that Ilon Mask and his team managed to make a ship and a rocket that can organize a mission with people into space in just a few years cannot be denied! And at the same time, the cost of this launch will be several times lower than that of the Space Shuttle. If everything goes well, the SpaceX mission will be a historic event: it will not only become the first commercial private company to take people into space (Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos are already nervously smoking in California), but it will also return the United States to the “space arena” - in literally and figuratively.

American astronauts Hurley and Benken, who will fly on the ISS aboard the Crew Dragon

We, like most readers in ourTelegram chat can only hold its breath: the first astronaut launch on the ISS in 10 years, which will take place in the United States, is scheduled for May 27 at 16:32 (23:32 Moscow time) from the launch pad in the Kennedy Space Center. American astronauts Hurley and Benken are space flight veterans, both started as military pilots and in 2000 became NASA astronauts. After the shuttle shutdown, they both flew the Soyuz rockets with Russian cosmonauts on the ISS. For SpaceX, this will be the first manned mission since its founding 18 years ago. A mission with a crew aboard Crew Dragon will be the final flight test for SpaceX before being certified for regular NASA missions.