The US space program is taking steps towards waking again. NASA had not conducted an American-based rocket launch carrying astronauts since 2011 when the shuttle program was ended. Since then, they’ve had to rely on Russian rockets to ferry astronauts and supplies back and forth between Earth and the International Space Station. Shortly following the end of the space shuttle program, NASA began seeking bids for a new space deployment system separate from what was left of the shuttle program. Boeing and SpaceX emerged as the top competitors and have been working on their projects since. The contracts with both companies total 6.8 billion dollars and are split up between the two companies, respectively.
Having received 2.6 billion dollars, SpaceX is building a crude version of its Dragon cargo ship that will ride atop the company’s Falcon 9 rocket. Technology gives SpaceX the upper hand here, though, because they’ve developed to their lift system in the Falcon 9 Boeing does not have that. SpaceX carried out a successful launch of their crew dragon; however, in April, they suffered a major setback when the same Crew Dragon capsule was damaged during a ground test. Fear not as they have recovered accident and are moving forward in testing.
On Friday morning, December 20th, 2019, Boeing will take Center Stage is there CST-100 starliner is scheduled to lift off from pad 41 Canaveral Air Force Station. Onboard will be a sensor dummy that is going to simulate an astronaut. The rocket will also be carrying 600 pounds of food supplies and holiday gifts for the crew of the ISS. If everything goes according to plan, the capsule will catch up with the ISS early on Saturday morning for a docking at the station’s forward Port around 8:27. This would be a big step forward for Boeing as the capsule is designed to host a crew of three people. If this lunch is successful, then Boeing will be able to move forward into further testing of in-flight emergency protocols, and eventually, the goal is to have a human-crewed test flight.
Under the terms of the current contract, Boeing has received 4.2 billion dollars to develop its spacecraft. That is presumably because they do not have their rocket propulsion delivery vehicles. The Starliner will be lifted into space aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. The Oddity and concern of it all is the fact that an Atlas rocket has not been launched into space since 1963 when Gordon Cooper took to orbit in his Faith 7 Mercury capsule. So far, there are no problems with the spacecraft or any of its systems; the launch looks like it’s going to take place. There is, however, the possibility of a 20% chance of weather-related delay for the launch.
Delays are nothing new, though, because the entire program has been delayed due to budget shortfalls. NASA’s big push to get back into space ties into their bold attempts at getting the Artemis program up and running as they are going to attempt to have Americans back on the moon by 2025. That timeline that was announced this year is an ambitious goal that may or may not be met. No one is sure if we’re going to be able to get there; however, the program has moved forward and several directions with several contracts, including Blue Origin, the company owned by Jeff Bezos.