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SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket of the Crew Dragon mission will land on the International Space Station ay 11 PM Monday and will dock there for six months. This marks a new beginning of the public-private partnership for commercial space travel.
Elon Musk-led SpaceX has registered yet another important chapter in the company’s history today. The California-based space exploration company has successfully launched four astronauts on its SpaceX Crew Dragon “Resilience”. SpaceX conducted this operation in partnership with NASA as its Falcon 9 rocket took off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on Sunday.
As per the schedule, the Falcon 9 rocket will conduct a 27.5 hours journey in orbit and will dock at the International Space Station at around 11 PM on Monday, November 16. Interestingly, the launch comes just under six months after SpaceX’s final demonstration of the mission.
Resilience rises. 🚀
— NASA (@NASA) November 16, 2020
Three NASA astronauts – Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and Michael Hopkins – and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi is aboard the human flight. This is also the first of many missions by SpaceX. However, with the successful launch, the mission will further continue for six long months. Speaking to reporters, NASA director of commercial spaceflight development Phil McAlister said:
“It marks the end of the development phase of the system. It may not seem that profound right now … but I believe 20 years from now we’re going to look back at this time as a major turning point in our exploration and utilization of space. With this milestone NASA and SpaceX have changed the historical arc of human space transportation”.
We also have the initial response from one of the astronauts Hopkins, radioed to SpaceX flight controllers from orbit. Hopkins said his crew was all smiles while adding:
“Well done, that was one heck of a ride. Making history is definitely hard and you guys all made it look easy. Congratulations to everyone. Resilience is in orbit.”
SpaceX and NASA: Overcoming All Hurdles
Sunday’s launch marked the beginning of a new era in commercial space travel. It is even more important because it is the first operational flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft entirely built and operated by SpaceX. In the future, NASA astronauts and anyone who buys the ticket can opt for a commercial spacecraft.
There were some initial hurdles with unfavorable climatic conditions on Saturday. The Crew Dragon spacecraft couldn’t get off the ground due to the Rough seas at the recovery zone. Thus, the team decided to delay the launch by 24 hours. But it seems that everything has gotten in place with the news of the successful launch.
NASA has selected SpaceX and Boeing as its partners for future space taxi providers. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner will serve as the primary means of transporting NASA astronauts to space. The participation by private players means a new chapter of public-private partnerships in commercial space travel. However, the recent success with SpaceX doesn’t mean that the US will stop working with Russia, said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine. He added:
“We want to have an exchange of seats where American astronauts can fly on Russian Soyuz rockets and Russian cosmonauts can fly on commercial crew vehicles”.
The space ties between the US and Russia are among the few bright spots in securing bilateral relations between the two nuclear powers. Russia has already pulled itself out of the Artemis program for returning to the moon in 2024. It added that the mission is too much US-centric.