SpaceX Launch to the International Space Station

Spacex launch

The Purpose

The SpaceX launch today, known as Demo-2, will once again permit the US to send humans into space.  Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will take off for the International Space Station at 3:22 p.m. EDT May 30, from Launch Complex 39A in Florida.  The SpaceX launch can be viewed live on NASA-TV

The rocket launch today will lay the groundwork for future exploration of the Moon and Mars, starting with NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to land the first woman and the next man on the lunar surface in 2024.

According to NASA, the Demo-2 mission is intended to demonstrate the ability of SpaceX to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station and back safely. The aim is to get the “Crew Dragon” astronaut carrier certified for more long-term manned missions into space.  

The Launch

The SpaceX rocket will lift off from the Florida launchpad 39A and two astronauts will be aboard the specially instrumented Falcon 9 rocket.  The rocket launch will be the second attempt, as the first attempt was aborted due to a potential lightning strike.

The two astronauts, after docking with the International Space Station, will join the crew on the space station.   NASA news of the SpaceX launch can be followed on the NASA website. After launch, the SpaceX mission will be monitored and controlled from the Johnson Space Centre in Houston Texas.

The Mission

The spacecraft has been built by the SpaceX company owned by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk. The rocket launch today will be the first time that such a mission has been attempted by a privately owned company.  

The journey to space will take around 10 minutes. After about two minutes, the rocket will separate into a first-stage and a second-stage. The first stage will return to a SpaceX landing ship in the Atlantic Ocean whilst the second stage will continue the journey with the Crew Dragon capsule on board.  

The capsule will then separate from the second-stage and travel at 17,000 mph before being in position to rendezvous and dock with the Space Station, 24 hours later.

The Return

On conclusion of the mission, Crew Dragon will autonomously undock with the two astronauts on board, leave the space station and re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Upon splashdown just off Florida’s Atlantic Coast, the crew will then be picked up at sea by SpaceX’s Go Navigator recovery vessel and return to Cape Canaveral.

The Future

Earth from Moon

The Demo-2 mission will be the final major step before NASA’s Commercial Crew Program certifies Crew Dragon for operational, long-duration missions to the Space Station.

This certification and regular operation of Crew Dragon will enable NASA to continue the important research and technology investigations taking place on board the station. 

Read more about the Artemis program

Australia’s Space Exploration Program

Artemis

Dr. Christyl Johnson is NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre’s deputy director for technology and research investments. She manages the research and development portfolio and is responsible for formulating future technology goals and leading an integrated program of investments aligned to meet those goals.

Dr. Christyl Johnson

In a recent visit to Australia, Dr Johnson was asked about Australia’s role in NASA’s resurgent Space Program which includes putting the first woman on the moon as well as manned exploration of the planet Mars.

Returning to the moon will involve “bringing all the best and brightest ideas to the table at the same time.  When you bring all the resources together, there is nothing that’s impossible.”

Australia’s Involvement in exploring space

Australia has been involved since the beginning of the Apollo program and has many opportunities to contribute.

We now have laser communications that will make it possible for large amounts of data to be streamed back from Mars.  As we explore the caves and tunnels on Mars, children on Earth will be able to observe in real time.

How difficult will it be to build a space industry in Australia?

Dr Johnson says that Australia has many start-up companies that will have opportunities to direct their research and productivity towards the space program.

Dr Johnson says that the program will open up “a whole world of possibilities.”

America’s National Aeronautical and Space Administration

NASA Building

With the establishment of NASA in 1958, eight main objectives were set for the new space agency.  According to NASA, these included, “the expansion of human knowledge of phenomena in the atmosphere and space,” along with, “the development and operation of vehicles capable of carrying instruments, equipment, supplies and living organisms through space.”

Also listed as a primary objective was, “the preservation of the role of the United States as a leader in aeronautical and space science and technology and in the application thereof to the conduct of peaceful activities within and outside the atmosphere.”

The ORIGINS of NASA

The Missions of NASA