Recently, in order to further complete the manned spaceflight program, NASA signed another $1.4 billion order with Musk’s Space Exploration Technology Company.
This is a “fixed price, indeterminate delivery, indeterminate quantity” modifiable contract for the execution of NASA Crew-10, Crew-11, Crew-12, Crew-13 and Crew- 14 flight plans.
According to the order, Space Exploration Technologies will launch five “Dragon spacecraft” before 2030 to help NASA go to the International Space Station to perform manned missions in low-Earth orbit.
The acquisition of this order brings the total number of contracts signed by Space Exploration Technologies and NASA related to the “Dragon spacecraft” to 14 times.
NASA claimed that the US$1.4 billion in the order not only includes the cost of launching the manned “Dragon spacecraft” to send astronauts into space, but also includes the cost of implementing an additional full set of services, including ground and in-orbit services, as well as on-board services. Upon return, provide transport services for the crew’s journey, and provide lifeboats, etc.
It is understood that the name of “Dragon Spaceship” comes from the American folk song “Dragon Puff”. The spaceship is developed by Space Exploration Technologies Corporation. As the only aircraft that sends astronauts from the United States to the International Space Station, the spacecraft can carry 7 astronauts into outer space at one time. Space service.
Dragon is equipped with 16 Dragon thrusters to provide maneuvering capabilities for the spacecraft during the mission, including apogee/perigee maneuvers, orbit adjustments and attitude control. At the same time, the spacecraft is also equipped with multiple parachutes, which are used to stabilize the spacecraft after re-entry and further decelerate before landing.
The torso of the Dragon spacecraft not only holds unpressurized cargo, but also provides support for the spacecraft as it lifts off, remaining attached to the spacecraft until re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. Half of the trunk is covered with solar panels, providing electricity during flight and on station. So far, the “Dragon spacecraft” has been launched 35 times, 32 of which went to the International Space Station.
In November 2020, SpaceX received certification for human transportation from NASA, and since then, the United States has resumed the ability to transport NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station using its own vehicles.
In addition to sending NASA astronauts into space, Dragon could also send commercial astronauts to Earth orbit, the International Space Station or beyond.
Looking back at history, most of the US space projects before 2009 were funded by the national government, and there were only a handful of purely commercial projects. That changed drastically in 2009, when Barack Obama became President of the United States.
He encouraged a large number of American private companies to get involved in the aerospace market, turning aerospace activities from government behavior into a form of commercial operation. Therefore, with the promotion of policies and the encouragement of the US government, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation’s first-generation “Dragon spacecraft” successfully flew in 2010. At that time, due to technical limitations, the spacecraft could only be used for cargo. In September 2021, Space Exploration Technologies will use the Dragon spacecraft for commercial manned spaceflight for the first time, sending 4 non-professional astronauts into space.
Since 2010, NASA has partnered with several U.S. aerospace companies on the Commercial Crew Program to advance the development of U.S. human spaceflight systems. Its goal is to enable astronauts to enter and leave the International Space Station safely and reliably.
In fact, the in-depth commercial cooperation between Space Exploration Technology Corporation and NASA can be traced back to 2014. The two parties signed contracts worth billions of dollars at the time. This funding was used in the development of related space equipment and later testing of the space capsule system (capable of sending astronauts to and from the International Space Station).
In April 2022, SpaceX launches the Crew-4 mission for NASA. As part of the mission, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 rockets transported up to four astronauts and critical cargo to the space station.
The next Crew-5 mission will transport NASA Astronaut Mission Commander Nicole Mann and pilot Josh Kasada, as well as Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata and Roscosmos Astronaut Anna Kina.
Among them, Anna Kina will serve as a mission expert during this space flight. This is the first spaceflight for Mann, Kasada, and Kiena, and the fifth for Koichi Wakata. At that time, the Falcon 9 rocket of Space Exploration Technologies Corporation will take the “Dragon spacecraft” from launch site 39A of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and send the crew to the International Space Station to perform scientific exploration missions.