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The history of SpaceX is a clear proof that private business can be more effective than government agencies in literally any field of activity, even in such a high-tech and expensive field as space exploration.
SpaceX was founded in 2002 by the then almost widely unknown businessman Elon Musk. By that time, he was known as one of the founders of the electronic payment system PayPal.
The appearance of SpaceX is connected with Musk's dream of Mankind's flights to Mars. He regretted that at the turn of the millennium, public interest in this idea had cooled. And Musk decided with his own hands to initiate the future colonization of the Red Planet.
Having received 165 million US dollars after the sale of PayPal, he invested this money in the creation of a private space company, the final goal of which should be flights to Mars. But this is in the future, and first it was necessary to start launching spacecraft into the Earth's orbit.
SpaceX has decided to use reusable spacecraft as the basis for its operations. This should significantly reduce the cost of delivering cargo to orbit.
Interestingly, Elon Musk initially planned to use American and Russian rockets for his own purposes, but eventually came to the conclusion that it was necessary to develop his own, innovative spacecraft.
The first launch of the launch vehicle from SpaceX took place on March 24, 2006. The Falcon 1 spacecraft was 21.7 meters long and had a launch weight of 38555 kilograms, of which 670 kg were for the payload. However, the launch ended in failure even at the stage of operation of the first stage.
The second and third launches of the Falcon 1 rocket were also unsuccessful for SpaceX. Moreover, in the latter case, the spacecraft already carried a payload: one American military satellite, two Malaysian commercial microsatellites, as well as the ashes of the dead for burial in Space.
On May 27, 2020, SpaceX plans to conduct the first manned flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, which should take American astronauts to the ISS. Bob Behnke and Doug Hurley will be the first humans to be sent into space aboard a private spacecraft. Much more important to the US space industry, however, this flight will be the first manned mission on a US-made ship and rocket since 2011. Yes, the United States has not sent people into space on its own 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 even bigger for NASA and America
All this time, the US Aerospace Agency has been buying seats on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to send astronauts to the ISS. For each such flight (one astronaut there and back), NASA had to pay about $ 85 million at a cost of the flight of $ 5 million. That is, sending a two-person space mission will already cost in the region of $ 170 million.
For comparison, the cost of launching the reusable Falcon 9 launch vehicle, which will launch the Crew Dragon into space, is about $ 60 million. And this is despite the fact that after launch, this rocket should land safely on Earth (with the best outcome of events) and can be reused in the future.
Unsurprisingly, NASA launched its Commercial Crew program to spur development of new US-made spacecraft. The joint NASA/SpaceX program is designed to do just that.
The rocket with astronauts is already waiting for the countdown
How did the Americans send their astronauts into space before? From 1961 to 1975, the flights were carried out on US-made ships - "Mercury", "Gemini" and "Apollo". Just as part of the Apollo mission in 1969 (11th in a row), the Americans were the first to land on the moon. And although there are those who claim that man has not yet set foot on the surface of the Earth's satellite, the facts indicate the opposite. Since 1981, the United States has conducted 135 manned launches into space on the reusable Space Shuttle, and there have been missions in which up to 8 people were simultaneously sent into space. It was a record - on the same Soyuz you can still send a maximum of 3 people into space.
Yes, in parallel with the Space Shuttles, manned flights were organized by the USSR, and then by Russia - first on the spacecraft Vostok (on which the first man Yuri Gagarin went into space) and Voskhod, and then on various modifications of the "Union". From 1967 to 2019, all Soyuz variants made a total of 138 flights. Both the Soyuz and the Space Shuttle sent into space not only Russian and American astronauts, respectively: in different years, the passengers of these ships were both Spanish cosmonauts who participated in the STS-95 Discovery program from NASA, and Malaysian, African and even Korean astronauts who flew various modifications of the Soyuz in the 2000s. 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 put a man into space. Or they did not see an urgent need for this.
The Americans flew 135 Shuttle flights before the closure of the program
SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corporation) is an American company that makes and launches space rockets. It was founded by Elon Musk (CEO of Tesla) in 2002 to reduce the world's cost of space travel.
SpaceX participates in many NASA programs and, at their suggestion, developed the first private ship - Dragon. All tests of engines and systems are carried out in Texas, and launch sites are given by cosmodromes and air force bases in California, Florida and Cape Canaveral. SpaceX has managed to conclude over 100 private and public launch contracts.
This is the first private company that is a real competitor to the state in the space industry. SpaceX does research for its own money. They launch rockets cheaper than NASA or Roscosmos. It is planned that in the future one launch will cost only $ 5-7 million. Now this amount is about $ 60 million for private launches and $ 80-120 million for government ones.
SpaceX makes reusable spacecraft. The stages of the launch vehicles return to the ground after undocking and can be used again, so the cost of launching is halved. To further drive down prices, SpaceX has come up with the landing of the first stages on floating platforms that are operated remotely and without a crew.
Despite the 6,000 staff (for example, NASA has 18,000 employees), SpaceX itself designs, assembles, tests rockets and develops engines for its carriers.
The company supplies space stations, launches satellites, and carries out scientific and military missions of the US government. SpaceX flies into low-earth orbit, but Elon Musk dreams of colonizing Mars and sending tourists to the moon.
SpaceX's big goal is to develop an interplanetary transport system. To do this, they are developing reusable space vehicles. Spacecraft should not only make a colony on Mars, but also carry people from anywhere on Earth to another in no longer than 40 minutes.
Another mission is to provide the entire planet with high-speed Internet. To do this, the company wants to place in 2019-2024. there are almost 4.5 thousand satellites in near-earth orbit.
The most numerous series of SpaceX launch vehicles is the Falcon (as the starship from Star Wars was called).
On September 28, 2008, SpaceX was able to send a satellite into orbit for the first time - using a Falcon 1 light-class rocket. Since then, the company has developed the heavy launch vehicles Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy and captured with their help half of the global commercial launch market , builds a giant BFR rocket, and in another ten years expects to have its own inhabited base on Mars. The company's fantastic successes raise a lot of questions: how did it happen that the "private trader" was able to bypass even some well-deserved space powers in a short time? And what is the price of Elon Musk's promises to get to the Moon and Mars? Last year, the N + 1 editors asked experts - Director of the Institute of Space Policy Ivan Moiseev and editor of the Cosmonautics News magazine Igor Afanasyev to explain the rapid development of SpaceX and evaluate its plans for the future. We recall this text, which has not lost its relevance.
Dragon cargo spacecraft during docking with the ISS
Ivan Moiseev: NASA paid for the Falcon 9 rocket, as they say, "on the vine." This means that the rocket has not yet been built, and the US space agency has already begun paying out money to SpaceX - as part of contracts for the delivery of cargo aboard the International Space Station. SpaceX managed to effectively use this money and expand its activities - to receive orders for satellite launches from other countries, from the US military and from telecommunications companies.
Of course, these advances would not have been possible without the technological capital that has been raised in the US at this time. And the task of NASA, both then and now, was precisely to introduce the intellectual property that is concentrated in the agency. This has been a huge contributor to the success of SpaceX.
Igor Afanasyev: Undoubtedly, external funding from NASA and other government agencies (in particular, from DARPA) in the early (but not in the early) stages of the development of launch vehicles and spacecraft has significantly influenced the success of SpaceX.
However, one cannot discount the fact that Musk started working on the company's money (one might say, on his own) and/or on funds that he was able to raise through external sources and venture capital funds. And these amounts were measured in six-seven-digit numbers and grew from stage to stage. In particular, when developing the light Falcon 1 rocket, Musk understood that his own savings would barely be enough to create a small, relatively simple launch vehicle, and from the very inception of SpaceX, it was necessary to establish good relations with government departments - NASA and the Pentagon - most interested in the study. and space exploration.
Having made the first rocket and demonstrated to potential customers the capabilities of his company, Musk secured state support and was able to build on its basis a powerful Falcon 9. Following this, SpaceX, armed with a new carrier, became not only another player in the launch market services, but also a powerful driver for the development of rocket and space technology in the United States and around the world.
Shares of companies and countries in the market of commercial launches
The same can be said about intellectual property. And here we are talking, rather, not about obtaining technologies belonging to NASA, but in specific people with extensive experience in the rocket and space industry. It was these people that Musk sought to get by any means, it was they who made up the intellectual backbone of SpaceX.
However, there are also conspiracy points of view, for example, that Musk was "raised and nourished" by NASA (independently or with the support of the Pentagon), creating a competitor to the largest aerospace giants of today Boeing and Lockheed Martin, which, from the point of view of a number of experts, "got too hungry and bite off too fatty pieces from the budget pie, inadequate to the benefits brought."
On the night of November 16, SpaceX used its Crew Dragon spacecraft for the second time to send people to the International Space Station. The first time took place in May 2020 and two astronauts were sent to the station. This time, four people were on board at once: three American astronauts and one Japanese taikonaut. This event is considered very important because this is SpaceX's first regular mission as part of the NASA program. Approximately 27 hours after launch, the spacecraft will dock with the ISS and its passengers will stay at the station for about 6 months. But let's start in order - how was the launch of the ship this time, who are its passengers and for what other reasons did this event attract so much attention? So the trampoline really works?
New ISS crew inside Crew Dragon
Taikonaut is a person who conducts tests in space. In Russia they are called cosmonauts, and in the USA they are called astronauts.
Initially, the ship was planned to be launched earlier, but it was postponed due to bad weather conditions. But on November 16, at 03:27 Moscow time, the Falcon 9 launch vehicle with the Crew Dragon spacecraft successfully took off from Cape Canaveral, Florida. After bringing the ship to a sufficient height, the first stage of the Falcon 9 separated from it and safely landed on a floating platform in the Atlantic Ocean. After minor repairs, it can be reused.
At the time of this writing, Crew Dragon is en route to the ISS. Approximately 27 hours after launch, it will reach the station and dock automatically. If you want to experience first hand how difficult this process is, follow this link and play the docking simulator.
There were four people inside the spaceship. The first was astronaut Michael Hopkins, 51, who had already been aboard the space station in 2013. The second astronaut is Victor Glover, 44, who has no experience in space travel yet. The third seat inside the spacecraft was taken by 55-year-old Shannon Walker, who has been listed in NASA since 2004. Of particular note is the 55-year-old taikonaut Soichi Noguchi, who is considered a true veteran of space. During his career, he managed to fly both Russian Soyuz and American Shuttles.
Here they are from left to right: Soichi Noguchi, Michael Hopkins, Shannon Walker and Victor Glover
In May 2020, SpaceX proved that even a private company can be trusted to send people to the ISS. It successfully flew astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley and charged much less money from NASA than Roscosmos. After all, the return flight on Russian Soyuz aircraft cost the Americans a whopping $ 85 million per person. And the cost of one seat on Crew Dragon is estimated at about $ 55 million.
While on the roscosmos site. u a section with poems by Dmitry Rogozin (head of Roscosmos) appeared, SpaceX was able to place 3 people on the ship at once. And the Russian "Soyuz" could accommodate a maximum of 3 people. That is, if NASA needed to send four astronauts to the ISS at one time, one of them would have to wait for the next flight. Now the aerospace agency can get more people to the station for less money.
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