back to article SpaceX Falcon 9 and Dragon cleared to hoist real live American astronauts into space

SpaceX has been given final approval to get into the space taxi business after NASA signed off on "Launch America", which will see the company's Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule used to transport a pair of American astronauts into space. SpaceX, the Falcon 9 and the Dragon capsule have of course been to the ISS before, on several …

  1. man_iii

    Space Taxis

    Are the SpaceX engineers confident enough about say 10 launches to the ISS per year or is it just for this one launch ? I find that a regular cadence on projects tend to sharpen or weaken the minds depending on the company culture. A lot of the stuff that happens is mostly robotic or autonomous to the point that we can trust the computer and its redundancies to take care of eventualities most humans won't even come close to reacting to things.

    1. Michael MacAskill

      Re: Space Taxis

      The Commercial Crew Contract between NASA and SpaceX is for six further missions after this demo flight. Not sure of the timeframe they are expected to be done in - I guess that was all a bit unknown when the contract was awarded nearly six years ago.

    2. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

      Re: Space Taxis

      10 flights per year exceeds the design goals of the ISS. The station is designed to support up to 7 people for ~6 months (I think the limit is 13 for a few days), with the idea of rotating about half the crew every 3. So the requirements of the ISS can be met with 4 flights per year, each with 3 or 4 crew members (Soyuz carries three). Of course, the shuttle flights had flight crew that returned with the craft after a week or so, so shuttle manifests with 7 or so people weren't uncommon (which is presumably why Crew Dragon can carry 7).

      Simultaneous, Boeing has a manned vehicle that they are debugging. And Jeff Bezos is trying to figure out how to deliver packages to space with Blue Horizons, too.

      I believe SpaceX has 5 trips scheduled over the next 18 months or so, and the Russians are still in the business. So for a while, we'll have (hopefully) significant excess manned capacity to the ISS, effectively using manned vehicles in place of robotic craft.

      But that's the point: the ISS is just a convenient test destination. Ultimately, for SpaceX, this is just a stepping stone to crewed BFRs on their way to Mars.

      1. Irongut

        Re: Space Taxis

        > Simultaneous, Boeing has a manned vehicle that they are debugging. And Jeff Bezos is trying to figure out how to deliver packages to space with Blue Horizons, too.

        Boeing has a bonfire-waiting-to-happen that isn't going anywhere soon. Bezos has a lot of buildings and an engine that works on Earth but zero actual space experience.

      2. Annihilator

        Re: Space Taxis

        "Of course, the shuttle flights had flight crew that returned with the craft after a week or so, so shuttle manifests with 7 or so people weren't uncommon"

        Also people could live on the Shuttle - was very much like having a caravan parked at the side of your house. Not sure the Dragon has as much capacity.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: Space Taxis

          "people could live on the Shuttle - was very much like having a caravan parked at the side of your house. Not sure the Dragon has as much capacity."

          It doesn't from the drawings I've seen. Apollo was "liveable" for 3 people for a week or so. Dragon would probably be similarly "liveable" for 7 for a week or so, but not like the Shuttle, which had actual sleeping areas, etc. - yeah, like a Winnebago in Space [sorta reminds me of a movie, what was it...]

          One of the smartest things that could be done within the next year is to re-use some of those human launch boosters to put a 2nd station into orbit, one designed to be a fueling station and depot between Earth-launched vehicles and a pure space "moon shuttle" vehicle (designed to make the lunar run in a day or two, then rinse/repeat and do it again, staying in space). ideally we will want this eventually, but why not start something NOW ? An ISS2 maybe but specifically designed for the refuel+resupply and passenger/crew exchanges.

          And yeah, let the Russian and EU and other space agencies contribute, too, maybe use it for their own exploration - way better than ground-launching a satellite to Mars, put the booster minus fuel into orbit, put the fuel into orbit on subsequent (or simultaneous flights), fuel up in space, send the thing to Mars, and have the Mars booster thingy COME BACK TO EARTH ORBIT to be re-used...

          1. phuzz Silver badge

            Re: Space Taxis

            The 'Lunar Gateway' is NASA's idea of where it's second space station should be (ie, near the Moon). It is otherwise, basically what you propose as an ISS2. It's international too, ESA and JAXA are interested in adding modules, and Canada are supplying a robotic arm (that seems to be the default Canadian space contribution. Maybe maple syrup works as a lubricant in vacuum?)

            I suppose that once you're launching supplies up to LEO, you might as well add a taxi stage to take them all the way out to the Moon, rather than docking with a station and then handing them over to a dedicated taxi. Plus that might lead to a use for the SLS, which means it would go down well in the government...

          2. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

            Re: "like a Winnebago in Space [sorta reminds me of a movie, what was it...]"

            Mel Brooks' classic "Spaceballs"

            1. Dave559 Silver badge

              Re: "like a Winnebago in Space [sorta reminds me of a movie, what was it...]"

              It could be Battle Beyond the Stars?

  2. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge
    Coat

    To space and beyond ...

  3. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge

    Rockhound: You realize we're sitting on 45,000 pounds of fuel, one nuclear warhead and a thing that has 270,000 moving parts built by the lowest bidder? Makes you feel good doesn't it?

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
      Joke

      re: Nuclear Warhead

      I very much doubt that it will be armed...

      Unless 'The Tweeter in Chief' is aboard then all bets are off. [see ion]

    2. AlgernonFlowers4
      Paris Hilton

      Free Falling Paris River

      What if I told you insane was working fifty hours a week in some office for fifty years at the end of which they tell you to piss off; ending up in some retirement village hoping to die before suffering the indignity of trying to make it to the toilet on time? Wouldn't you consider that to be insane?

    3. DaLo

      Maybe that's why one of the astronauts, Bob Behnken, looks like he's bricking it pre-launch?

      https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/976/cpsprodpb/65F7/production/_112430162_49927475262_d1079989f9_k-.jpg

  4. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    Have you seen the spacesuits they are wearing? Pure 1970s sci-fi.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      in theory all you need for a space suit is a balloon-like suit that you can crawl into and cinch up various parts to fit. I figured something *like* that would make a great emergency suit some day... though not exactly well fitting and pretty, it would keep your eyes in your skull and give you enough O2 to breathe for quite a while, I'd bet.

      But yeah a retro 70's sci-fi look sounds pretty good, too. Best (looking) Hollywood space suit design might go to "The Martian". I have to wonder if that is protective enough, though...

      1. Intractable Potsherd

        I love the mission patch on the Twitter thread, too!

      2. imanidiot Silver badge
        Boffin

        Sound like you are describing the personal rescue enclosure http://www.astronautix.com/r/rescueball.html

        Not exactly a high point in space-suit design ;)

      3. Kevin Johnston

        Can we just make sure that whatever suit design is used it doesn't have those ()*&^)*&^ lights inside designed to make the wearer readily identifiable but also making it impossible to see out

  5. IGotOut Silver badge

    The slogan the is incomplete

    'Launch America". C'mon we know the two words that should follow. Question is...will Matt Damon be ready to go if there are any issues?

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: The slogan the is incomplete

      Isn't he in lockdown in a fancy pad in Dublin?

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: The slogan the is incomplete

      Yeah, that image looks like the title screen of an 8-bit computer game from the late 80's (or is it?)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Pint

    Bon Voyage

    Ignoring the people running this and the politics involved, I just wish the astronauts a safe trip.

    1. detritus

      Re: Bon Voyage

      What's the wonderfully-monikered Gwynne Shotwell done to annoy you?

    2. Intractable Potsherd

      Re: Bon Voyage

      For me, the only sour note is the MAGA-esque jingoism - "Hey, its All-American, woot woot!!11!"

      I expect a bit different from El Reg.

  7. JDPower Bronze badge

    Um, stating launch time at just "4:33pm" could theoretically put it anywhere in a 24hr window (and also wrong for the majority UK readers)! It's 4:33pm EDT, 9:33pm UK time.

    1. Martin J Hooper

      Thanks!!

      Was going to ask what time it was BST... Cheers for that!

    2. RobThBay

      EST not EDT

      There's only 4 hrs difference in the summer. 5hrs difference in winter (daylight savings time).

      So launch at 4:33pm EST is 8:33 pm UK time.

      Looking forward to it,

      1. Joe W Silver badge

        Re: EST not EDT

        So 19:33 Z (also known as UTC)?

        Is there live coverage?

        1. RobThBay

          Live coverage

          NASA live....

          https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive

      2. JDPower Bronze badge

        Re: EST not EDT

        You're wrong, but you feel free to tune in an hour early.

      3. circusmole

        Re: EST not EDT

        RE: RobThBay

        Check again!

    3. Remy Redert

      The instantaneous launch window opens at 4:33 p.m. EDT, or 20:33 UTC

      Direct from SpaceX's official website.

      1. RobThBay

        Thanks for clearing that up. Seems odd they're still on EDT at this time of year

        1. FrogsAndChips

          Why? It's perfectly normal to be on a daylight saving time zone at this time of year in the Northern hemisphere.

      2. JDPower Bronze badge

        Correct, and the UK is currently UTC+1, making the launch 9:33 UK time.

      3. Joe W Silver badge

        Excellent! When working internationally, give the time in UTC. Also my experience from different international projects (across too many time zones).

        Thanks! I was a bit too lazy to look that up :) But I will grab a couple of cold ones and watch the coverage.

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Agreed, and I'd really like it if elReg would include the UTC time by default.

          Everyone should be able to remember their local offset from UTC (and it's especially easy for us Brits), but I can never remember all the various timezones in the US.

  8. all ears

    Supposedly the weather isn't looking good on Wednesday, may have tp postpone till Saturday.

    1. Spherical Cow Silver badge

      S'ok. ISS will still be there.

      1. imanidiot Silver badge
        Alien

        Well, we hope, anyway. Unless they come to take it.

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