The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft will have a continuous presence in space starting this year

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft will have a continuous presence in space starting this year

Days after NASA confirmed SpaceX is on track to launch Crew Dragon on November 14 and debut Cargo Dragon 2 on December 2, one of the company executives said this successive launch is a sign of things to come.

The first semi-functional Dragon spacecraft flew in more than a decade in December 2010, followed 18 months later by the spacecraft’s second orbital mission, during which SpaceX became the first private company in history to launch and dock a spacecraft at the International Space Station (ISS). Four months later, Cargo Dragon successfully docked with the International Space Station for the second time as part of NASA’s First Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-1) mission, beginning what would become an unusually successful series of 19 operational space station resupply operations. Delivered just under 45 metric tons (around 100,000 lbs).

SpaceX fulfilled its full contract for NASA CRS1 in April 2020, effectively retiring from the first generation of Dragon Spaceships. Less than two months later, the Crew Dragon spacecraft – an upgraded Dragon 2 spacecraft – set off on its second orbital mission and launched an astronaut for the first time, and its flawless completion made SpaceX the first private company in history to be certified for astronauts by a citizen agency The space. Now, maybe a little more than two weeks apart, SpaceX is on its way to trying to launch the first operational astronaut. And the First launch of a Cargo Dragon spacecraft developed under a new NASA CRS2 cargo contract.

The C207 Crew Dragon capsule prepares to launch an operational astronaut for SpaceX, November 8. SpaceX
The first upgraded Cargo Dragon spacecraft was shipped from SpaceX to Florida ahead of the first orbital meeting of two SpaceX spacecraft. SpaceX

Speaking at a November 10 conference call focusing first and foremost on the imminent operational launch of Crew Dragon, Benji Reed CEO of SpaceX – who has taken a very good stance of confidence – revealed some impressive details about what to expect from the Dragon going forward. ahead.

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“Over the next fifteen months, we will be flying seven missions of the cargo dragon crew and dragon for NASA. This means that starting with Crew-1, there will be a continuous presence of SpaceX Dragons in orbit. Starting with the CRS-21 cargo mission, each time we launch In Dragon, there will be two Dragons in space – simultaneously – for extended periods of time. Really, we are bringing back the United States’ full launch service capacity and we’re very proud to be a part of that. “

Bungee Reed, SpaceX – November 10, 2020

In short, SpaceX has Seven The Dragon is scheduled to be launched between November 2020 and January 2022, necessitating a mid-tempo for a single Dragon mission every two months or so. To achieve this feat, SpaceX will begin to delve into the reuse, reuse of both Crew and Cargo Dragons. And the Falcon 9 boosters commissioned to launch them. Scheduled for first reuse in March 2021, four astronauts will launch on a flight-proven booster craft inside a proven orbiting spacecraft to the International Space Station.

Meanwhile, thanks to NASA’s plans to extend the time the unmanned Cargo Dragon 2 spacecraft spends in orbit on the International Space Station and the average of two Crew Dragon missions every six months annually, SpaceX could find itself maintaining a continuous presence in space starting from the earliest. November 14. As Reed notes, this also means that all of the two dragons will be operating simultaneously in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) every time SpaceX launches the Cargo Dragon resupply mission.

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Roscosmos, Russia’s national space agency, is the only other entity on Earth that can claim a similar capability – it is now used simultaneously to operate several Soyuz crews and the Progress cargo vehicle into orbit after nearly a decade serving as a sole bridge between Earth and the International Space Station. If SpaceX’s Crew-1 Crew Dragon and CRS-21 Cargo Dragon launches are successful, the US private company will effectively become the backbone of US spaceflight, reaffirming the country’s position as a competitive space power.

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