SpaceX To Begin Training Astronauts For First Private Spacewalk

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SpaceX Headquarters

SpaceX Mars Rocket Explodes In What’s Seen As Successful Test Flight 

A giant experimental rocket that was built by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company was successfully launched eight miles above the company’s testing facilities in South Texas. The rocket launched and landed as planned before it crashed into the ground resulting in a massive plume of smoke and flames. 

No one was on board of the experimental rocket that was over 160-feet tall. According to Musk, the rocket will hopefully be used to haul massive satellites into Earth’s orbit, and will be able to shuttle people between cities at record speeds; which would also eventually lead to the human settlement on the planet Mars. 

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Musk hopes that this technology can be the first step in establishing a human presence on Mars, and the massive explosion at the end of the test landing wasn’t exactly unexpected. The name of the prototype vehicle is the “SN8,” which Musk tweeted had a one-in-three chance of landing safely back on Earth after its first test-flight. 

The SN8 did successfully manage to maneuver to its landing target however, according to Musk, the rocket’s fuel system caused it to make a crash landing. Musk and SpaceX in general are no strangers to embracing the mishaps that occur with their multitude of experimental flying vehicles. When an error occurs, the company quickly moves to create an upgraded version of whatever failed and keeps on experimenting until something successful is established.

SpaceX has previously attempted two previous launches of SN8 this week however both of those attempts were halted moments before the countdown clocks ran out. It hasn’t been made clear why those particular launches were paused while this one actually was able to occur, however, last-minute mission cancellations are not uncommon in general for space exploration. 

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The company claims that they’re still obviously a long way from building an operational Starship spacecraft that would be able to support human travel to Mars, however, this was an amazing first step in that direction. So far the company has been focusing on what models would be able to perform best under the pressure that occurs when the rocket enters into the varying atmospheres in space. 

The next SN8 model that will be tested is the first of its kind to have three engines installed and will have the highest amount of risk for failure as a result. Initially Musk wanted to launch the SN8 into the stratosphere, which would be around 11 miles about the Earth’s surface. The company later decided an 8 mile distance would be a much safer bet as at least they would know that the rocket could make it to the point that is widely considered the “edge of outer space.” 

The final starship design will have to have six engines in order to successfully enter Earth’s orbit on its own and launch at the rate that SpaceX is aiming for. The idea of putting human beings on Mars will obviously involve a lot of technological, political, and ethical questioning that will likely be ongoing past our lifetimes, however, this launch goes to show that the possibility is there, now it’s just a matter of time and execution.


SpaceX Makes Historic Landing At The International Space Station

Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley have successfully entered the International Space Station (ISS) after a 19 hour long journey on the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. The two men docked at the ISS around 10 a.m this past Sunday morning after initially launching from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday. 

The two are expected to remain docked for one to three months with a maximum time of 110 days. The Crew Dragon made initial contact with the docking port at the ISS early Sunday when the men did a “soft capture” of the capsule; which basically means initial contact. They then went on to do a “hard capture” that involved using twelve latches to create an air-locked seal between their crew cabin and the entrance to the space station itself. 

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They made their soft capture around 10 a.m on Sunday but weren’t actually able to enter the station until around 1:15 p.m. due to the lengthy “hard capturing” process. Fellow NASA astronaut Christopher Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoli Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner greeted both Behnken and Hurley when they finally entered the station, as the three of them have been docked there since April. 

“I couldn’t be happier about the performance of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. We were able to sleep for a few hours, share meals and use the on board toilet during our journey. The Dragon was a slick vehicle, and we had good airflow, so we had an excellent, excellent evening,” Hurley said in a call to mission control located in Houston, Texas. 

While on their way to the ISS, both Behnken and Hurley gave a virtual tour of the new SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft using cameras they brought with them. While the vehicle was en route, the two took viewers around the capsule where NASA later uploaded the video to their official YouTube page. In the video the two announced that they decided on their own name for the vehicle: Endeavour.

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“The astronauts picked that name for a few reasons, Hurley said on NASA and SpaceX’s webcast. On one hand, the name honors the years-long endeavor that was returning human spaceflight to the United States after the Space Shuttle retired in 2011. And it honors the longtime friendship that Hurley and Behnken have shared, and their histories with NASA: Both astronauts began their spaceflight careers with missions aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. (That vehicle’s namesake was an 18th century ship commanded by British explorer James Cook — hence the British spelling of Endeavour,” (CNN reports)

The launching and docking of Endeavour is a major milestone for the spacecraft itself. SpaceX itself has been working on this goal since it was originally founded in 2002 so when the two officially made contact with the ISS, those down at mission control obviously had to celebrate. 

When NASA originally called upon SpaceX, a private company, to design vehicles for space travel to the ISS after the Space Shuttle program was retired in 2011, they received a lot of backlash. While NASA and SpaceX have worked together multiple times in the past, SpaceX was never given the responsibility of creating original designs, developments, and testing facilities for human-related space travel vehicles, so experts were worried. 

However, after this initial success, it’s likely that NASA and SpaceX will continue working with one another well into the future. In fact, the two recently announced that they’re ambitiously hoping to put people on the moon by 2024.


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