A commercially created spacecraft has launched into space for the first time in history. An accomplishment that had only been completed by the national agencies such as NASA previously. Elon Musk’s company, SpaceX, broke history by having their Dragon Endeavour Spacecraft enter space and attach themselves to the bow of the Space Station. It took the SpaceX’s Crew Dragon 19 hours to reach the International Space Station (ISS) following its departure from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken, the two astronauts involved with the mission were honored to be apart of the mission and enter the lab complex. This achievement removes the monopoly that the Russian Soyuz Spacecraft had of providing transportation to and from the ISS. SpaceX (a private company) proved to be a successful launch to orbit, this milestone should inspire many individuals and businesses.
According to astronaut Douglas Hurley when discussing the Crew Dragon, “It flew just like it was supposed to.” In addition to that, he complimented “the folks back at Hawthorne and SpaceX for how well it flew.” Hurley also said on behalf of him and Behnken that “It’s exactly like the simulator, and we couldn’t be happier about the performance of the vehicle.” This vehicle operates autonomously, meaning that the crew does not need to make any effort in docking it or anything. Although, the Dragon is able to be manually controlled if needed. Now, the astronauts will continue to be docked at the ISS for the next 6 to 16 weeks. But, it’s prepared for a prolonged mission. The Crew Dragon is able to be docked for the same period of time that the Russian Soyuz spacecraft is capable of, which is 210 days.
The way that the operation works is quite complex. In fact, it is a Falcon 9 rocket that took off from Florida. The rocket is what contains the Crew Dragon which is the capsule that continues to orbit. In fact, just two and a half minutes after take-off, the Falcon 9 (first-stage) disconnected itself from the rest of the rocket by switching off its nine Merlin engines. Leaving the upper-stage of the rocket and the Crew Dragon to continue the journey. The Falcon 9 is reusable due to its process following its detachment from the entire spacecraft. There are grid fins as well as another set of engines that allow the rocket to navigate towards a SpaceX drone ship, where it landed safely.
This mission marks the first time there has been a successful launch into orbit from the United States since July 8, 2011. SpaceX’s success and partnership with NASA show just how capable private companies can be when they have access to an astronomical amount of resources. The financial investment and research and development were tremendous, and all the minds that were a part of the project deserve recognition. One person who certainly enhanced his credibility was Elon Musk. As the Founder of SpaceX, all eyes were on him and he delivered. This success will likely generate more support towards him in his future ventures, whether that be with Tesla or SpaceX.