Why I'm So Excited About the SpaceX Dragon Launch

Alas, right at liftoff, they had an abort from the computer systems and missed their ONE SECOND launch window.  Disappointing, but all they lost was some fuel.  They'll try again Tuesday.

I've mentioned on more than one occasion how excited I am about the SpaceX Falcon 9/Dragon Capsule space launch, which is slated for May 19, with May 22 as a back-up.  I think I'm more excited about this launch than I was about the Space Shuttle launch, although it could be because I'm older and more interested in space operations now.  Nonetheless, I see this as a groundbreaking move, and not so much in the area of technology, but a cultural, political, and economic change in paradigm that is going to finally get humanity off the ground and into space on a truly significant basis.

It's a historical progression:  When the Americas were first colonized, governments did the initial work; however, things really took off when commercial interests came into play.  In the time of kingdoms, these were sometimes one and the same, but not so now.  This is a much needed step forward.

But more than that, we need to government to start taking the support role in space, helping to build industries while still allowing them to rise and fall according to their own ability to create a functioning and desired product without making itself the only client of said product.  In other words, it should help industries create space assets that it can use, and not limit itself to one company making one product for the one customer--NASA..

In an age when people want the government to do it all for them, we can see very clearly the effect of a government monopoly on manned space.  The dream of John F. Kennedy was reduced to a contest against Russia, with only two subsequent programs--the space station (an international endeavor) and the Space Shuttle, now a museum piece.  Even more ironic, it's the Russians who now give us a ride to our own station.  So who won that race, again?  Attempts to progress in our quest for space are riddled with politics, at the whim of the current party in power, and fraught with cost overruns as the lowest bidder gets the contract then realizes it cannot keep its promises without further funding.  Plus, there's not a lot of economic sense in building something only you can use, and (for that matter) only sort-of use for reasons of national pride or scientific study.  Good reasons, perhaps, but when balanced against the fiscal realities of a nation trying to do too much with too little.

We need private companies to carry us forward.  They can set a vision and run with it without worrying what the voters think.  They do have to worry about their customers, but that's a whole different dynamic; a commercial program might fail because there's no customer base.  A government program might fail because a president wants to put his own stamp on things, or Congress wants to look tough on spending, or someone decides teaching kids about space has more voter appeal than building equipment to study or occupy space.

Commercial industries also have to keep an eye on the bottom line.  They need to make a program that will sustain itself through customers (like tourists or scientists who rent space on the flight) or products like in asteroid mining.  The government cannot start its own industry, and thus, space exploration will forever be at the whim of the taxpayers and their elected officials.

Commercial industries foster competition, new ideas, chance-taking and a different "Will-Do" attitude that the government cannot.

Now having said, that, I don't think the government should step out of space completely.  We do have national interests and international obligations in space.  I just think that instead of hiring one company to handle all of that (or attempt to as the whims of Capitol Hills change their operating instructions), they should encourage multiple companies to develop the industry.  The COTS program, which awards prizes to industries able to create certain products, like the Dragon space capsule, fits that need exactly.

On May 19 (or 22), we will see the fruits of that program in SpaceX, but SpaceX is not the only company in the running.  Orbital Sciences is slated to begin its own crew resupply program in the next year or so.  Other industries have sprouted in hopes of receiving the award, too.  The best part of these, however, is that they see NASA as  a stepping stone rather than an end goal.

We have a model rocket of the SpaceX Falcon 9/Dragon that we will launch when Rob gets back from training in honor of the launch of the actual spacecraft.  it will be streamed live on their website at

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Karina Fabian said...

Launch aborted due to a faulty valve that they are replacing:

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