Science

Head in the stars: SpaceX’s ambitious agenda

We are all closely following the early beginnings of this umpteenth Elon Musk adventure, the progress of which is proving as surprising as the others. The conquest of space, what a vast program! However, there are many SpaceX missions that have already been completed for this rapidly developing company. We can cite the success of the super heavy launcher Falcon Heavy. And, today (11/24/2021), the start of the DART (Double Asteroid Direction Test) mission aimed at deflecting an asteroid from its path.

So in light of your exploits, we invite you to board it to introduce you to three of SpaceX’s upcoming missions!

On the way to the moon for NASA!

SpaceX’s SN15 spacecraft on its launch pad, Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Boca Chica, Texas. (Miguel Roberts / The Brownsville Herald via AP)

On April 16, 2021, NASA selected SpaceX, Elon Musk’s company, for its next manned mission to the moon. Elon Musk’s company is responsible for the development of the US Space Agency’s lunar landing system for $ 2.9 billion (2.4 billion euros).

Billionaire Elon Musk’s company has landed a major contract for the Starship prototype spacecraft. It got ahead of the Blue Origin company of Dynetics and Jeff Bezos, and became the sole supplier of the system, a break from the past, as NASA often chose multiple companies if one failed.

NASA said the lander will bring two American astronauts to the lunar surface and require a test flight to the moon before humans make that flight. This decision consolidates Elon Musk’s company, created in 2002 with the goal of conquering Mars, in his place of NASA’s privileged partner in the private sector.

Inspiration 4: let’s go space tourism!

The Inspiration 4 crew, in SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsuleThe Inspiration 4 crew, in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule

In September 2021, Crew Dragon took four non-professional passengers into space for their fourth manned flight, the first in the history of space travel. The Dragon capsule was in space for three days. It is even further away than the ISS, which rotates at an altitude of 400 km, aiming for an orbit of 575 km.

If passengers have anyway been trained by SpaceX to be able to take control of their spacecraft in an emergency, this mission is a real first: “There have already been orbital tourists, but this is the first time that non-professional passengers have not they are accompanied by astronauts ”, explains Christophe Bonnal, researcher at the National Center for Space Studies (Cnes).

Also, unlike astronauts who train for years before leaving for space, passengers have been trained for less than six months. They experimented with weightlessness in parabolic flights or g-force in a centrifuge. They also had to hike through the snow at high altitude on Mount Rainier in the northwestern United States.

The flight went smoothly, opens a new era for space travel and we look forward to seeing missions of this kind flourish …

Starship’s First Orbital Flight: Is It Coming Soon?

Artist's impression of the starship and its launcher, orbiting the Earth.Artist’s impression of the starship (source: numerama)

SpaceX is moving towards a first Starship orbital flight … But we still have to wait. In fact, last month there were still no flight tests planned for the giant Starship / SuperHeavy launcher. On the other hand, more and more work will be carried out on land infrastructure.

In addition to the umbilicals installed a few weeks ago, the rail system installed throughout the tower, the eight huge tanks of propellants and pressurized gas within the launch area, there is enough to occupy hundreds of workers, technicians and engineers who are they take turns day and night. night on site.

Progress is daily: the tank systems are active (several are already full), the piping to the cooktop is checked, the various mobile systems are tested.

This bodes well for new trials “soon”.

Therefore, the SN20 prototype should test its engines soon, while public hearings have begun for the FAA, whose decision will be crucial for the future of the on-site launches. The latter is due to present its long-awaited report on the environmental impact of the SpaceX site in Boca Chica.

In case of a positive opinion, SpaceX will receive the green light for ambitious tests (up to 20 suborbital shots and 5 orbital shots per year). But, in the event of rejection, the on-site work could delay the project by several years, or even require a transfer of activities to the Space Coast.

The concern is that the administrative battle may be longer than the test campaign … In any case, the next test should always point to orbit (or at least, a quasi-orbit), with the Super Heavy BN4 prototype and the Starship SN20. The latter, covered with its thermal tiles that will allow it (perhaps) to withstand an atmospheric reentry, has not yet finished testing on the ground.

Source: Wikipedia

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