Good luck, SpaceX
The hopes and dreams of spaceward looking humanity rest now with you!
SpaceX, the upstart startup rocket company bankrolled by famous PayPal nerdwealth hecamillionaire Elon Musk, has received the first ever commercial licence permitting the re-entry of spacecraft into Earth's atmosphere from orbit. The chit will permit the firm to carry out an imminent test of its new "Dragon" capsule. The …
This is most amusing.
How does that work? You need a license from the FAA if you want to deorbit above US airspace? Or do you need one to land in the USA?
"I'm sorry sir, but your license to deorbit has expired. You will need to wait while your new application is considered"
A _re-entry_license_? Hell, I never knew you needed a license to re-enter the atmosphere. So, did all those Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Shuttle crews have to carry it in their glove compartment or something?
So... what if the Dragon mission had gone off without waiting for the FAA, and the prototype cargo/crew module had re-entered sans license? Would the USAF have scrambled some F15s out of Canaveral to pull it over and give it a ticket?
But note 2 things.
While the crewed parts of NASA *seem* to be getting comfortable with the idea of non-NASA rockets and capsules delivering cargo they seem as far away as ever with the *crewed* transfer.
US readers might like to inquire into weather the crewed option has even been *funded* (I don't think it has so far). Musk estimated a 36 month (3 year) design/build process (including a 6 month problems allowance) once the contract was signed. IIRC it's called something like the Commercial Crewed Transfer Service.
USians. Without a US vehicle in the near term (part of Ares 1's scrapping was it was expected to ready for *first* flight *after* the ISS was due to be shut down. IMHO a development schedule produced by eunuchs )
If you want to go to the ISS you will either hand *big* bucks to that nice Mr Putin (or whoever he lets think is in charge there) for the privilege or you *hope* the European or Japanese cargo carriers can be crew rated (BTW Ariane 5 *is* crew rated but no doubt not by NASA standards)
Funding the crew rated Dragon give a vehicle whose services *could* be sold *globally* (although naturally will only be launched from the US to keep all those nutty ITAR types happy) built by actual US workers to be sold (for an honest profit) to *real* people (rather than just NASA)
Points you *might* like to make to your local elected representatives. Preferably in a well structured dead tree letter in a not too small typeface that has been spell checked and proof read. Not too many bullet points, italics or bold text please.
There *is* a 2nd contender. But what the hell has happened to the Orbital Sciences Corps project?
I admit it - I had zero faith in his ability to run something this large, and to generate the right ideas in an area not his area of speciality expertise.
But BOY was I wrong...SpaceX has just done everything right...the right design decisions, the right fuel decisions (the Saturn V was fueled by a first stage of kerosene too), and finally winning the contract to the ISS. Now this.
He may just do it - provide REAL orbital capability for the masses.
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