After spending a large part of last week waffling about Students and the Daily Mail it is a relief to be writing about space again.
Last week the private company SpaceX completed a landmark achievement. They became the first company to launch a capsule and return it to the Earth. The Flight known as COTS Demo 1 was the first flight of a Falcon 9 and a operational Dragon Capsule (The flight earlier in the year used a dummy Dragon capsule)
The COTS programme started in January 2006 will result in commercial services conducting re-supply missions to the International space station freeing up NASA to (At the time) Go back to the Moon and eventually Mars. SpaceX won the contract and has been developing it’s falcon rocket since.
So it happened on December 8 2010 a Falcon 9 carrying a Dragon capsule blasted off into the blue Florida sky. This was SpaceX’s second attempt a sensor fault aborted the launch the first time round with 2 minutes 50 left in the countdown. 2:56 into the flight the 1st stage engines cut off, stage 2 separated and it’s engines burned until just under 9 minutes into the flight. The orbit had an apogee 301km of and a perigee of 288km (Apogee and Perigee are the 2 points in an orbit where the craft is at minimum height and maximum height) This put it almost bang on the 300km mark SpaceX were aiming for. After 3 hours the retro fired and the capsule returned to a water landing in the Pacific only 800m away from the expected landing point.
Now much has been written about SpaceX and how it is a bad thing but here’s a quick fact The development cost of the rocket was in the area of $300 million and it cost NASA $500 million just to build the Tower for the Constellation programme, the cost of the Aries rocket is in the $40 BILLION mark to continue through until 2015. There’s also other pluses to SpaceX the fact the rocket isn’t running on Solid fuel which can’t be turned off unlike a conventional engine.
SpaceX has been kicked around by politicians on both sides as a hero and villain yet one thing is for certain, their rocket has done what was asked with minimum cost and without a major incident. Hopefully SpaceX will lead the way.
This is a filler article, I’m hoping to get some time to write a more concise one in the next couple of days. So this is more a taster