Maverick entrepreneur Elon Musk’s billion-dollar aerospace enterprise SpaceX Technologies has successfully ferried four NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. For SpaceX, this is a milestone. And for humanity, a sign of things to come.
First, Five Facts about the NASA Launch
- On 15 November, California-based Space Exploration Technologies Corp (SpaceX) sent four astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) on the Dragon capsule, carried by its Falcon 9 space launch vehicle. This was the first time in its history NASA used a private vehicle to send astronauts to space. The Dragon was named Resilience by its crew, to reflect the many challenges the year 2020 brought, including Covid-19.
- SpaceX’s November 15 flight is the beginning of a series of crew rotations NASA is going to conduct between the ISS and USA. SpaceX helped it make up for years of delay on this front. If NASA can send more people, it means more science research at the orbiting lab, according to officials.
- SpaceX’s Dragon can carry up to seven astronauts. That’s a first. The previous editions were able to carry only up to three. The Dragon is the only spacecraft currently flying that is capable of returning significant amounts of cargo to earth.
- SpaceX plans to recycle the first-stage booster rocket on the Falcon 9 and use it for the next crew launch. The first-stage booster accounts for about 60 per cent of the launch price of a single Falcon 9.
- SpaceX’s next launch will arrive by the end of March 2021. This is meant for bringing the just launched astronauts back to Earth in April. SpaceX plans to send another team up in a few months again.
Now, Five Facts about Musk and SpaceX
- Elon Musk fiddles with crazy ideas, we all know. And these include self-driving cars, reusable rockets and interplanetary travel. Of these, the rockets stand out. By 2017, SpaceX’s share in the global rocket launches hit 20 per cent.
- Born in 1971 in South Africa, Musk has degrees in business and physics from the University of Pennsylvania. You know he co-founded PayPal and founded the electric car company, Tesla. But he also founded a solar energy company SolarCity, which later dragged him into a legal wrangle after it was rescued by Tesla following a liquidity crisis.
- SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket has been in circulation for a decade now. This two-stage booster had its first flight on June 4, 2010. It went up from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and landed upright and came back fully operational. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos sent a rocket in 2015, but it failed.
- Musk, who coded his own video game at age 12, now wants rockets to power his Tesla cars as well. Yes, he does. He says a future edition of the Tesla Roadster will sport 10 mini-rockets which will power the vehicle by acting as ‘thrusters’.
- Musk’s new project, Neuralink Brain Chip, aims to allow people to hear sounds impossible to human ears. It can help people with neurological issues to control phones or computers with their mind.
Finally, Five Facts about Musk’s Possible India Entry.
- Reports say SpaceX Technologies is eyeing India’s internet market. SpaceX has said India should allow satellite-based broadband technologies to set shop in this market.
- SpaceX made the suggestion in reply to a consultation paper by India’s telecom regulator, TRAI. The paper from TRAI — Roadmap to Promote Broadband Connectivity and Enhanced Broadband Speed was released on August 20. SpaceX may roll out its Starlink services in India by 2021.
- SpaceX says Starlink’s high-capacity, high-speed, low-latency satellite network will advance the goal of delivering broadband connectivity to all Indians, particularly those without access now.
- SpaceX wants TRAI to encourage “technology-neutral” broadband definitions that reflect the advances of next-generation satellite services. It wants the government to assign already-allocated frequencies for use by satellite systems.
- Starlink runs a constellation of over 4,400 non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) satellites that have advanced communications and space operations technology. So far 700 Starlink satellites are roaming up there. SpaceX launched these satellites in just 16 months. SpaceX has big plans for Starlink and is building 120 micro-satellites per month. SpaceX has already received approval for 12,000 Starlink satellites and is seeking nod for 30,000 more.
Also read: NASA’s Next Moon Plan