The unprecedented fall of Covid has banged us to be quarantined, meanwhile, technology wasn’t. The imagination and ingenuity that we humans have achieved, did pave a way through to discover new limits. While many raise concerns over this unfathomable important aspect, the parameter that we fail to notice is the rise in technology.
The divergence of knowledge is just impeccable. To know things are different from learning things. The internet has a tremendous amount of information that we humans will never finish reading. Rather than being ludicrous, reading a blog or writing a journal, or having a significant idea to change the existing technology could always be astounding and this is where SpaceX comes.
SpaceX is the first private company for many things – to send a spacecraft to ISS, to send astronauts to orbit, to recover a spacecraft, to nail vertical take-off and vertical propulsive landings like no other rockets and the first private company to reuse an orbital rocket(Falcon-9).
Even though the American space shuttle was a reusable rocket, there were many compromises made which were a lot riskier and also due to cutbacks in budget. SpaceX has reflown the Falcon-9 series more than a hundred times and had a much smoother ride due to the 9 Merlin engines of the first stage which uses super-chilled kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants.
The fun part of SpaceX is to land the rocket in the middle of the sea. When the rocket re-enters the atmosphere, cold gas thrusters flip the first stage upright and the guide fins help it stabilize the rocket. In the final phase of what SpaceX calls the “boost back burn”, three of the nine Merlin engines ignite one last time which almost hovers over the barge to make a soft touchdown. These barges are in constant communication with the rocket for landing parameters.
The cost to build a Falcon-9 is approximately $50 million. For a standard commercial flight, the company charges $62 million for a new booster. It will be a little less for the reused Falcon-9, i.e, for the second launch SpaceX gets $50 million which makes the total revenue from the two launches be $112 million ($62M+$50M). During this, SpaceX would have made $47 million in profits after the refurbishments which can be used to cover 3 Starlink launches. The cost of space explorations has drastically decreased due to the reusability of the rocket.
SpaceX uses the Dragon capsule to ferry humans to and from space. The capsule can carry as many as 7 passengers and a significant amount of cargo. The recent launch of the Crew-2 mission contained 4 astronauts which increased the population of ISS by 11. This is the first time in a decade the ISS has 11 astronauts and two Dragon capsules attached to the ISS. The capsule is equipped with two drogue parachutes followed by four main parachutes to further decelerate the vehicle on landing. To enthrall, Dragon has had a total of 26 launches of which 23 have been to the ISS, and has reflown 10 missions.
On a note, it’s just not SpaceX who is in the race for exploration. Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos too has a company, named “Blue Origin”, which is yet to launch anything into orbit. With the AWS space unit and Amazon’s Kuiper project (an initiative that provides high-speed broadband with low latency that forms a constellation in the low earth orbit), the Blue origin can take up their rivals to the next level of space exploration too. Just like SpaceX, Blue Origin also aims to reuse their first stage and land it back on earth.
The research and technology in space are changing at a very fast pace. There are still infinite amounts of resources to be found and experimented with. We can still uncover the mysteries of the universe with the amazing rush in advancement.