ISS ready to work with Elon Musk's Dragon spaceship
Now SpaceX just needs to get it flying
SpaceX, the private sector orbital launch firm started by PayPal hecamillionaire Elon Musk (also of Tesla Motors fame), has announced activation of comms kit aboard the International Space Station which will allow operations with the company's upcoming Dragon capsule.
The new equipment, known as the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) Ultra High Frequency (UHF) Communication Unit, was taken up to the station by the space shuttle Atlantis last November. ISS astronauts began setting it up and testing it in January, and more tests took place this month.
“The success of this series of tests speaks to our close collaboration with NASA as well as the SpaceX process that allowed the rapid development of this new hardware,” said SpaceX ops chief Marco Villa. “Everything went smoothly, and we eagerly anticipate the upcoming Dragon visits to the ISS.”
SpaceX is currently ground-testing its new Falcon 9 rocket, intended to launch the Dragon into orbit. At present the firm has only flown the less powerful Falcon 1, intended for smaller payloads such as relatively light satellites.
NASA has awarded SpaceX a $1bn+ contract calling for delivery of supplies to the station using unmanned Falcon 9 launched Dragons beginnning next year. However, the firm says that the launcher and capsule have been "designed from the beginning to transport crew", and makes no secret of its aspiration to carry astronauts as well as cargoes.
NASA's own manned spaceflight plans are currently in disarray, with the shuttle fleet set for imminent retirement and the planned Ares/Orion systems - which were never fully funded by Congress - now cancelled outright by the Obama administration.
With the ISS soon to be entirely reliant on Russian Soyuz ships, commercial providers like SpaceX may well get the chance they've been begging for. ®
NASA started out as a research organisation, well, several research organisations really. They no longer participate in some fields where things have become routine, comsats are private and weather satellites are run by other agencies these days. No private organisation would have sent Cassini or the Mars rovers, and once they get the bugs ironed out future private operations will benefit from things like the water recycling on the ISS. They need to do more basic research and development and less routine operations.
Re: Time to scrap NASA?
I'm sorry, but what private industry has done more than the briefest sub orbital hops? They are still hell of a way from orbit.
The part of NASA that should be scrapped is that responsible for rotating temperature graphs. They should leave that to UEA and concentrate on the big fireworks, then they wouldn't have to rely on electric car salesmen to get to orbit.
Don't forget the other A in NASA stands for Aeronautic. It may not get the same reportage that the Space side does but NASA does very important work on plain old flying machines, basic research and testing of concepts that then gets spun out to commercial interests to turn into viable products.
An awfull lot of kit we depend on when we fly these days (as pilot or passenger) came through NASA first, no matter where in the world you are. I reckon the US tax payer gets a bloody good deal where NASA is concerned and their politicos ought to start realising that.