In 2011, America had to say goodbye to the program “Shuttle”, which served as a transport for putting people into orbit and delivering to the orbital station. After that, they signed an agreement with Russia to purchase seats on the Soyuz spacecraft series. However, the success of private space companies hint at a quick return to launch from their home territory.
March 2-3, 2019 was another victory in the list of SpaceX Ilona Mask. These are the dates of successful launch and docking with the International Space Station of the privately-piloted spacecraft Dragon-2 (Crew Dragon), designed for reuse.
It was the first test flight, so only a mannequin named Ripley was present on board as a passenger (he felt great). Already on March 8, the ship returned to Earth, performing a safe landing. In July, preparing for the launch of the first astronauts. If everything goes smoothly, then NASA will actively use the new transport.
The situation with Dragon-2 made some people doubt how successful the fate of the Russian Soyuz spacecraft would be, which for a long time was the only connection with the ISS (“Will SpaceX’s success be a death for the Russian space program? ”). But this is not the latest news.
The fact is that NASA decided to play it safe and sign an agreement with two private companies at once. The successful mission of Ilona Mask has already proven the viability of Dragon-2. Now it has to be done by a rival organization - Boeing, which is developing the Starliner spacecraft. At the end of the project, NASA allocated $ 4.2 billion.
Waiting for launch
The Starliner spacecraft was originally supposed to launch as early as January 2017, with two astronauts waiting inside. However, we had to shift the deadline several times. It seemed that in July 2018, a launch could be organized. But during the test firing of four engines recorded anomalous behavior.
Recently, a new date for the first test flight was announced - the end of April 2019 (tentatively - April 29). The device will also go without passengers to the orbital station and return to Earth. If successful, it will be possible to send the first three astronauts at the end of the summer. It is planned to dock on April 30 and return to Earth on May 7.
Interestingly, Dragon-2 and Starliner are almost on the same level. If the Boeing company succeeds with a test flight, then it will be inferior to SpaceX in launches for just a month or two. Both are designed for capacity of 7 crew members. In addition, Starliner will be able to deliver cargo to the ISS, with which SpaceX's Dragon cargo ship can now handle it. In the future, NASA is preparing to receive two capable crew ships at once to send astronauts to the ISS and back.