SpaceX Meets Next Milestone for Manned Space Flight

Big congrats to SpaceX for getting NASA approval on its launch abort system for the Dragon manned capsule!

The launch abort system gives the astronauts an "abandon spaceship" option should there be a problem during launch.  The Apollo capsules had one; the shuttles did not.  NASA is requiring that all manned capsules in its COTS program have such a system, and with good reason.

The nice thing about the Dragon's abort system is that it works from launch to orbit, which is better than ever done before.  Basically, the capsule itself is the escape system, so if something goes wrong with the big candle it's sitting on, they can disengage from the rocket.  However, if things go smoothly, those same engines will give them a nice soft landing on Earth or whatever celestial body they choose.

This was the next stage in their preparation to send astronauts to the International Space Station, as well as other venues, such as Mars (which is founder Elon Musk's eventual goal) or other stations.  What I've not been able to find online is a timeline for when the new system will be manufactured and put to practical tests.  So far, NASA has only approved the designs, which is an important step, but just one.  I think the goal is 2015; I'm hoping they can do it earlier than that, but there's a lot to consider, including government bureaucracy.

From Popular Mechanics, which awarded them a breakthrough award.

One thing I'm hoping, is that the different space industries are talking about standardizing airlocks.  this about what a pain and expense that will be if everyone's is just different enough that other ships won't fit.

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Walt said...

They've been mumbling back and forth about the need for a "universal" docking collar (read: "airlock") since about 1968. The talk has been about as effective as English versus metric. As an example, the last I heard, the French have agreed to whichever system everyone else settles on as long as it's a French design (admittedly, I haven't heard how ESA has effected this).

Karina Fabian said...

It's going to be an important issue. I have the feeling it will be solved by whoever ends up with the best presence first. "You want to get on our station? You make your airlock fit mine."

Karina Fabian said...

However, I DO think we should go metric on this.

Walt said...

What? No furlongs per fortnights?

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