Friday, April 20, 2012

Enter The Dragon

The Space Shuttle may be retired, but America's not out of the space business. Not yet. A week from Monday, on April 30th, a SpaceX Falcon 9 will lift off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, carrying a loaded Dragon spacecraft bound for a rendezvous with the International Space Station. Here's a summary of what's planned:


If everything works as planned, Falcon9/Dragon will begin regular cargo flights. The next step? Well, they're building a model with seats, aren't they?


The obvious difference between the two is that the cargo version has a wider front hatch that uses the passive berthing mechanism, where the manned version has the active docking mechanism. The manned version also has some pretty beefy descent engines. Of course, the planned tests have to work. Things could still go horribly pear-shaped. But they've got a good track record so far. We're beginning to see a transition that I've been expecting for about ten years now. Then, the government was the sole source for space flight. Now, that is moving into private industry. It's too early to tell if that's a good thing or not, but I strongly suspect that it is. We'll see lower costs, and more innovation, as more private players get into the market. Bend the cost curve down far enough, and some really interesting things can begin to happen.

A week from Monday, we'll take a big step down that road. Cross your fingers.

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