Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dragon in the Lead

The Space X Dragon is scheduled for a trip to the ISS this fall...

Oh look, the Dragon has a launch escape system and a simple ablative reentry heat shield that can't be killed by a chunk of foam falling off the launch vehicle.    

The Dragon capsule seats up to seven astronauts in crew configuration, and will deliver staff  members to the ISS for $20 million a seat. Compare that to the $63 million per chair NASA is paying the Russians to take our astronauts to the ISS in the Soyuz.  I have to admit the Dragon 9 launch vehicle looks more than a little like a Soviet rocket, what with it being all functional and simple and redundant and all.  If this is what privatized space flight looks like I'm loving it.

What space shuttle?

Thank you Space Exploration Systems!

Note: In related news, China is planning to launch a prototype space station module into orbit.  The Tiangong 1 ("Heavenly Palace") will allow China to practice the skills required to become a space-faring nation.  Good for them, and for us.  Competition is good.  A race to Mars would be awesome!

Another Note: Seems I forgot to remember that NASA is not only an aeronautics research and space exploration agency it is also a card-carrying member of the federal bureaucracy.  For more on on the challenges of having the federal government as a customer read the excellent Private space firms question if NASA contracting policies will allow progress by James Dean of Florida Today (where he also writes for The Flame Trench blog).  You'd think NASA would understand the effect friction, drag, and inertia have on spaceships...

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