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HomeTechElon Musk sending three Nasa astronauts to ISS with Crew Dragon space-taxi in ‘new era for space travel’ this weekend

Elon Musk sending three Nasa astronauts to ISS with Crew Dragon space-taxi in ‘new era for space travel’ this weekend

Elon Musk sending three Nasa astronauts to ISS with Crew Dragon space-taxi in ‘new era for space travel’ this weekend

SPACEX is set to send four astronauts into orbit as part of its first operational crewed flight to the International Space Station (ISS).

The crew, consisting of one Japanese and three US astronauts, is scheduled for lift-off shortly after midnight on Sunday, on a rocket and capsule system built by billionaire Elon Musk’s aerospace company.

AP:Associated Press

Nasa astronauts Shannon Walker (far left), Victor Glover (centre left), Mike Hopkins (centre right) and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi (far right) wearing SpaceX spacesuits at Nasa’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida[/caption]

For Nasa, it marks the beginning of using private firms as a “taxi service” to fly its crew to and from the space station.

The US space agency announced this week that it had certified SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket to carry astronauts, making it the first commercial human spaceflight system in history.

SpaceX boss Musk said in a statement: “This is a great honour that inspires confidence in our endeavour to return to the Moon, travel to Mars, and ultimately help humanity become multi-planetary.”

Since ending its Space Shuttle programme in 2011, Nasa has depended on Russia’s space agency Roscosmos to transport its astronauts to the space station, at a cost of around $90million (£67million) per seat.

AP:Associated Press

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that will carry the team into orbit is ready on its launchpad at the Kennedy Space Center[/caption]

In 2014, it awarded SpaceX and Boeing contracts to provide crewed launch services to the space station as part of its Commercial Crew Program.

The SpaceX certification ends Nasa’s reliance on Russia and comes with a price of about 55 million US dollars (£40m) per astronaut.

Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight development at Nasa, said in a statement: “Nasa’s partnership with American private industry is changing the arc of human spaceflight history by opening access to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station to more people, more science and more commercial opportunities.

“We are truly in the beginning of a new era of human spaceflight.”


The reusable rocket at the launchpad on Thursday evening[/caption]


The team will take part in what is SpaceX’s second ever crewed launch[/caption]

Back in May, Elon Musk’s company made history when it became the first private company to send humans into orbit.

US astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley travelled to the space station and back as part of a mission to demonstrate SpaceX’s capability to safely perform crewed missions.

The current mission, named Crew 1, will see the Crew Dragon capsule carry Nasa’s Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, as well as Japan’s Soichi Noguchi, to the space station.

The astronauts will spend six months on the orbiting space laboratory, conducting scientific experiments and performing various other tasks.

What is SpaceX?

Here’s what you need to know…

SpaceX was founded by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk who still has part ownership of the company with 54 per cent equity and 78 per cent voting control.

SpaceX is a private American aerospace manufacturer that is based in California.

It was founded in 2002 with the goal to build affordable rockets and enable the colonisation of Mars.

The manufacturer also aimed to reduce space transportation costs.

Since its creation, the firm has gained fame primarily as a pioneering rocket firm.

In 2008 it launched the first privately-funded liquid-propellant rocket to reach orbit and later became the first private company to launch an object into orbit around the sun.

The company has grown dramatically over its lifespan, from 160 employees in November 2005 to around 7,000 as of November 2019.

As of March 2018, SpaceX had over 100 launches on its manifest representing about $12billion (£9.24billion) in contract revenue.

The crew is set to blast off from the Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida at 00:49 UK time on November 15, in a journey that is expected to last around nine hours.

Shortly after lift-off, the Falcon 9 rocket will separate into a first stage and a second stage.

The first stage will return to a SpaceX landing ship stationed off the coast of Florida, while the second part of the rocket continues the journey with the Crew Dragon.


SpaceX’s first crewed mission, called Demo-2, launched from Florida in May[/caption]

Once in orbit, the Crew Dragon will separate from the second stage and travel at around 17,000mph.

The craft is expected to rendezvous and dock with the space station on Sunday at 9:20am UK time.

The astronauts will join three other space station residents – Nasa’s Kate Rubins and Russia’s Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov – to become part of the Expedition 64 crew.

Meanwhile, Nasa’s other taxi service for hire, Boeing, is not expected to fly its first crew until next summer.

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In other news, SpaceX completed its second successful Starship booster test flight in Setpember.

Musk wants to send humans to Mars as early as 2024 aboard one of the huge rockets.

And, Nasa set a hillside on fire during a recent test of the “most powerful rocket ever built”.

What do you think of Musk’s space plans? Let us know in the comments!

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