If you think of all SpaceX has ever done was try to get to this point, with somewhere around 80 flights on the Falcon 9, but for a variety of mission buyers (NASA, USAF, Commercial Sat companies, SpaceX itself!), somewhere around $5b (~$60m a launch) has been spent getting an entirely new, ground-up manned space program up and running to include launch vehicle with a majority re-usability. But along the way, numerous satellites and other stuff ended up in space as well. This allowed NASA to also split the R&D bill with multiple "partners".
To put this into context, the Mercury program ran about $2.25b in today's dollars, Gemini ran $7.3b ($723m per mission!).
The Space Shuttle program had a lifetime cost of $209b ($1.5b per flight!!!) If you think the Shuttle program is not comparable, the F9Heavy program, a derivative of this other work, can put up more mass than the Shuttle, managed to split much of the development costs with the Falcon 9, can land most of its mass, and has a per flight cost of $90m.
We now have the capability to put up another ISS today, resupply it, and staff it, at a fraction of the cost, all with launch equipment made by a single company that started a decade ago as a side project for a guy who was trying to make electric cars after making money on the internet.
This is a ridiculous bargain and Spacex isn't even close to done yet.
The tanks on Falcon are welded using Friction Stir Welding, which was invented in the early 1990s.
The landing algorithm for the first stage uses convex optimization algorithms based on interior point methods, which were not available in the 1960s.
However, something very much like an expendable F9 could probably have been built in the 1980s. Simply evolving the Saturn 1B (which was cheaper, per lb of payload to orbit, than the Saturn V) could have easily beaten the Shuttle's economic performance.
But that wasn't the main problem with creating a new jet, which has a myriad of other issues before certification.
That one's a killer. I was once a project manager at an aerospace company developing a new processor chipset for space applications. Our government customer would run out of money near the end of every fiscal year, forcing us to shut down. Then a few months later they would secure funds and ask us to restart. By then most of my staff would have been reassigned to other projects. It was stupidly inefficient and caused costs to balloon.
I don't know how much it applies, but sometimes evolving something requires switching out components for other ones, which are more expensive. Not everything scales. Marketing isn't the only reason why 50% more capability often costs 100% more. I imagine with rocketry, you're often operating at the edge of the capability for certain materials and approaches.
The Merlin has considerably higher specific impulse and thrust/weight ratios. It also has very fast throttling, a necessity for vertical landing. And, it's remarkably cheap (less than $1M per engine). I don't have the figure for the inflation-adjusted cost of the H-1, but I suspect it was much more expensive.
Is this level of optimisation really needed? I thought most of the landing was having enough fuel margin and then running a PID control algorithm during the landing burn.
"SpaceX uses CVXGEN (Mattingley and Boyd 2012) to generate customized flight code, which enables very high-speed onboard convex optimization."
This is actually a great example of a true NASA spinoff, btw. Lars Blackmore was at JPL before moving to SpaceX. Landing on Mars and landing a first stage back on Earth aren't the same problem, but they're close enough for the work to transfer.
NASA is currently developing the Space Launch System (SLS) and has spent over $20b with almost nothing to show for it.
The dream was that the shuttle could be that system, but it did not turn out that way. And giving in to the 'sunk cost fallacy' they supported the shuttle for the next 40 years.
Arguably you could say we are 50 years behind where we should be. Unfortunately driving down costs is probably the hardest thing for any government organization to do. Given that there is no competition, no shareholders, no profit motive etc..
Not too say this isn't a big deal. Just that it's not all Elon and his wunderkind.
NASA has never been in the business of building tickets. Mercury went up on Army's Redstone, Gemini on Air Force Titan. Routine launches are on ICBM-derived Atlas and Titan.
Boeing and Douglas built Saturn V, Rockwell built the shuttle orbiter.
NASA and their bureaucracy have been sliding out of the "do" category for some time.
And think of the fact that all of this is nothing compared to what a fully-deployed StarLink will do, and what weekly or daily launch capabilities would mean for the U.S. armed forces. The number of satellites to shoot down in a war is going up, and the rate at which they can be replaced is also going up. Moreover, the cost of sending up new interesting military sats is going way down, which means we'll see greatly upgraded capabilities in many areas. Civilian science too will be benefiting greatly.
SpaceX's commercial and non-commercial competition is hobbled by subsidies. Ahhh, what a great demonstration that subsidies are dangerous to business. Otherwise, if they really wanted to, the competition is not that far behind SpaceX, and could catch up, and pretty quickly if they want to, but in the meantime, SpaceX continues to innovate and get ahead.
There is nothing wrong with fear, it's healthy to have a realistic view of things.
It doesn't take any courage to do something you aren't afraid of.
I think that’s a prerequisite to start a rocket company.
I believe this is backwards, SpaceX was created first and it was implied in the biography that it's more as if Tesla was the side project.
Disclaimer: Long time TSLA investor
This is the part that's exciting for me. Whether it comes in the form of more space stations like the ISS or a much bigger and reinvigorated ISS, either way is a vital step in the right direction toward making humanity less beholden to a single planet.
Lots of challenges still to come, but this is a reminder that those challenges can someday be overcome.
I guess it’s inevitable.
They actually wanted to join the ISS effort, but were given a firm no and had no other option than to do pursue their own. 
I don't think we will see any other country-specific stations for a long time, but modular commercial stations that can be shared for research and potential business endeavors (hotels, specialized manufacturing, ...).
If efforts like SpaceX Starship actually succeed in very significantly lowering launch costs, that is. Right now it is simply not affordable either for nations or businesses. A single Starship would actually be a great temporary space station on it's own, comparable to the ISS in usable area.
1 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiangong_program
2 - https://youtu.be/rPqJyS26e60
But yeah, this is definitely a reason why I hope we can keep the ISS going and just keep building on it. Additional space stations should be for good reason (for example: orbiting the moon, or - my crazy dream scenario - one orbiting in the past-GEO graveyard orbit to collect and refurbish dead satellites).
That means we should allow China to participate in the ISS, too. There are some national security concerns, apparently, but we overcame those with the USSR/Russia, and China should be no different.
Realistically, maritime law might be a better reference, given that space stations and other spaceships are informally (if not formally) referred to as "ships".
There are a number of scary mould patches up there, and potentially other pathogens, with no real way to properly clean the whole thing.
But HN is consistent in admiring rocket launches without considering how pointless they are.
Bread and circuses. Nothing's changed since the gladiator days, have they?
The very presence of people on the ISS is "science". The whole point of the ISS is to investigate the effects of long-term space habitation on humans. Plus, the ISS itself is an experiment, demonstrating the feasibility of in-orbit assembly of complex human-habitable structures from individually-launched-and-deployed modules (on a scale far greater than its predecessor Mir). There are even recent examples of this, like Bigelow Aerospace's module demonstrating the feasibility of inflatable space structures.
On top of that, all sorts of other experiments take place on the ISS all the time. There is, mind you, a giant Wikipedia article listing the myriad of experiments done throughout the history of the ISS: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_research_on_the_Int...
And SpaceX just brought back a bunch of samples from such experiments as recently as April: https://www.slashgear.com/spacexs-dragon-cargo-ship-returns-...
Not sure where you get the impression that the ISS ain't doing much science, but it's pretty trivial to find a plethora of information indicating the exact opposite.
The ISS orbits at only 250 miles, barely into LEO.
The wikipedia article has a long list of experiments, but the question is, "Do they actually contribute anything?"
Can you name one scientific result from an ISS experiment? I can't.
> the effects of long-term space habitation on humans.
Humans aren't colonizing anything in space. You've read too many scifi books.
Just because the experiments aren't as frequently cited doesn't mean they didn't happen at all, or that they're unimportant.
> The wikipedia article has a long list of experiments, but the question is, "Do they actually contribute anything?"
This one is vital to our understanding of how space radiation affects embryonic development, which is critical for space colonization: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experime...
Or this one, which tested various fire suppressants in microgravity to determine their effectiveness, which is critical for manned spaceflight safety beyond merely the ISS: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experime...
Or this one, where the Michael J. Fox foundation partnered with NASA to conduct research on the ISS to replicate a key protein involved in Parkinson's disease (LRRK₂) in microgravity, allowing for much larger and more uniform growth patterns than possible on Earth: https://www.michaeljfox.org/news/parkinsons-protein-blasting...
Or this one, which evaluated the risks of microbial contamination on interplanetary missions (which could jeopardize the search for extraterrestrial microbes on e.g. Mars) by examining microbes that survived on the exterior of the ISS: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22680691/
> Can you name one scientific result from an ISS experiment? I can't.
That only goes to show your lack of willingness to educate yourself on the matter. Like, a search engine ain't exactly hard to use; I was able to pull all those examples within a couple minutes.
> Humans aren't colonizing anything in space. You've read too many scifi books.
No, I've read "too many" research papers and NASA reports. Evidently you have read none.
Humans absolutely will colonize space. Obviously not right this second, but humankind has been making baby steps toward that goal for as long as it's known of the existence and the vastness of space, and there is no reason to believe that will somehow not continue to be the case. Earth won't last forever, especially at the rate we're destroying it; permanent space colonization is therefore not just an economic and scientific boon, but absolutely imperative for the long-term survival of our species.
SpaceX was founded in 2002, almost two decades ago
Now that we have Falcon 9 and Heavy moon missions are back on the table, but the Shuttle was incapable of supporting any effective Lunar mission profiles.
It was designed to recover satellites and bring them back to Earth safely as part of its military mission. Nothing Space X is offering has such a capability.
Different vehicles for different roles.
The shuttle was very well deigned for what it was intended to do, that's quite right, it's just a shame it was never used to perform one of it's primary tasks. However it also doomed the manned US space programme to operate exclusively in LEO for the vehicle's lifetime.
They can do it of course, Falcon Heavy could launch a car in the general direction of Mars. But they are limited by their use of kerosene in their 2nd stage and its low specific impulse compared to hydrogen.
BFR and it's Raptor engines are better suited for that purpose. But we don't have a BFR yet.
(1) As Dom Toretto always says, American Muscle beats Import every time ;)
It was ridiculously expensive. It was unsafe. And everybody knew that before it flew the first mission.
In theory a new entrant could achieve similar feats with lesser money . For example rocket lab is doing pretty well for their size with some real innovation based out of New Zealand! Extremely likely part of their staff would come from spacex ULA, NASA etc . Similarly spacex would have leveraged from ULA , NASA as well .
NASA also does help them in some areas as part of this program and others and also the money they (and others) have spent during the last 15 years especially without validation. Very few customers would invest in 10 year product development journey they way NASA has with CCS.
That would not possible without NASA’s own budgets being so large to support kind of projects like the shuttles and ISS in the first place . Only then the couple of billion they spent will look small enough to take that risk.
Rocket Lab isn't out of New Zealand, that's a popular underdog myth at this point. They're an American company, funded overwhelmingly by big US venture capital, that built their current technology primarily in the US.
The initial low scale efforts for Rocket Lab originated out of New Zealand, with sounding rockets. They moved to the US because they could go no further with the limited native aerospace and funding capabilities of New Zealand.
Their name is now Rocket Lab USA. Their headquarters has been in the US for most of their existence and progress.
And most of their efforts and expansion are now also focused in the US:
New Zealand didn't have the native aerospace engineering capabilities to build what Rocket Lab has. Most of the advanced engineering was done in California, leaning on the massive aerospace resources of the state.
Australia has only had its own Space Agency since mid-2018, and its budget is minuscule (less than 10 million AUD a year.) I think Australia should aim to spend a similar percentage of GDP on civilian (non-military/non-intelligence) government space spending as the US does. Given the US economy is about 13-14 times bigger than Australia's, this would suggest ASA's annual budget ought to be around 1/13th or 1/14th of NASA's annual budget, which would be at least 100 times bigger than ASA's budget is currently. It really is an investment in the future of the country, ensuring that it doesn't get left behind.
Now, before everyone goes huffy on me, I’m not trying to disregard everything that SpaceX has accomplished.
Also Tesla seems to be extremely focused on r&d.
How does Elon Musk push and run his organisations so differently that he seems to be one of the only few, if not only one, capable of running big organisations that are able to accomplish this extreme level of innovation paired with tangible results?
- he’s technical enough so that he actually understands what he’s doing (unlike a “non-technical cofounder”)
- working on actually inspiring projects (unlike “let’s sell ads” Google, “let’s make rich people richer” finance, “no innovation” Boeing or “Instagram for dogs” bullshit startups)
- he’s rich enough to be able to start his own company with extremely capable people, with less need to please the investors (at least in the short term)
- he’s actually driven, not just money/power-hungry like 99% of billionaires who use their wealth to buy goodwill/influence/art.
How so? Tesla spends a tiny bit of revenue on R&D and a solid chunk of that is on "research" grants that get converted to manufacturing grants (e.g. the NY plant).
Don't get me wrong, I guess there could be research spending elsewhere since Tesla is notoriously bad at financial reporting (e.g. the only company in history to double its factory count without increasing OpEx, or the only company in history to build a factory with zero CapEx spending), but I'm curious what the "extremely focused" claim is backed by.
Established companies have an expectation of success if they just keep doing what they are doing, so anything new is an unacceptable risk.
He seems to be able to benefit from the resources of a big company, while at the same time keep the fresh mindset of a relatively small company.
An actual non-monetary goal is what's missing, IMO, for most companies.
Money is more of a general goal, like happiness. Hard to stay focused.
The only non-reusable part was the external fuel tank.
But yeah, sending something as big as a bus up and down was probably the bane of it.
But to use them again a lot of efforts had to be spent, comparing to what's possible with first stages of F9. That's why Shuttle boosters are called refurbishable.
It turns out not having to "shuttle" half a dozen humans up to orbit every time you want to get something up there is a good idea.
Remember the shuttle "had to" be all things to all people, and the military demands ended up being VERY heavy and expensive.
At this time AFAIK nobody has the technical ability to snatch a Soviet spy sat and take it home, or haul strange and heavy (many ton) electronic warfare payloads over a target and land next orbit on NATO turf. Now, WHY you'd want to, or SHOULD you want to, are outside the bounds of this discussion, but the shuttle certainly had that kind of military stuff as a very expensive and very heavy design req.
At minimum, each mission had a commander and pilot. Then there were missions specialists and payload specialists, which depended on the specific mission the shuttle was carrying out.
There's always a lot of work to do, so it makes sense that they'd maximize for productivity.
Capacity to put mass into low orbit, but building a multipart space station requires far more than cobbling modules together KSP-style. Shuttle and the Canadarm(s) built the space station. SpaceX doesn't have that construction/manipulation capacity. It doesn't have the spacewalk capacity. To match Shuttle and build another ISS SpaceX would need to send people and cargo on the same flight, something that is certainly physically possible but remains logistically complex. NASA doesn't spend millions training astronauts in that giant swimming pool because they like the water.
Trick was to get rotation aligned first, then worry about translation. And yeah, might as well ignore visual; just went by the numbers.
In my first-try-success attempt, I was doing all translations at once, not something silly like lining up the numbers one at a time (that won't work well anyway, due to the differences in orbit between yourself and the docking target). That is: moving toward the ISS while simultaneously moving up/down and left/right to line up, and thus moving along the hypotenuse.
And by the way, this seems to be the exact approach Crew Dragon Endeavour took, judging by what I saw in the livestream early Sunday morning. They were already lined up rotationally before starting the final docking approach.
So for example, with the simulator loaded up in a tab right now, after lining up the rotation, I'm seeing:
X | 200.0 m
Y | 12.0 m
Z | 30.0 m
Crucially, this makes it feasible for a computer to do automatically (though automated docking tends to stop shy of actually docking from what I understand, instead using CanadArm to grab the craft and put it on the dock).
You're right that aiming along the hypotenuse makes this a little bit easier to eyeball, but it also makes it a bit harder in other respects since now you'll have to adjust both rotation and translation along the way to stay along that slightly-curving hypotenuse.
Basically, this simulator just cares about the physics of it, but not resources (Fuel, oxygen, etc).
I did it exactly that way, first rotation then translation. The 2nd fail it took me so long that in the 3rd (and successful) run I just hit the metal after getting the rotation correctly.
Side note, it's much easier to get the rotation right first and then moving the ship.
It was fun, thought.
One at a time move pitch, yaw, and roll to zero (with 0 velocity). Before touching any translation buttons.
Never touch the pitch yaw and roll buttons again. Start moving x, y, and z translation to zero using transnational thrusters. Make sure you zero out y and z before you get close to zeroing out x.
I wonder how reuse affects the math, and what they’ll be able to do to lower those prices further. Obviously the optics on getting a domestic launch for half the price makes it an easy sale for Congress, but we were all hoping for more.
An order of magnitude reduction might have gotten us 20x as many launches.
> NASA will likely pay about $90 million for each astronaut who flies aboard Boeing's CST-100 Starliner capsule on International Space Station (ISS) missions, the report estimated. The per-seat cost for SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule, meanwhile, will be around $55 million, according to the OIG's calculations.
> To put those costs into perspective: NASA currently pays about $86 million for each seat aboard Russia's three-person Soyuz spacecraft, which has been astronauts' only ride to and from the ISS since NASA's space shuttle fleet was grounded in July 2011.
“There were times when I thought he was off his rocker,” Mueller confesses. “When I first met him, he said, ‘How much do you think we can get the cost of an engine down, compared to what you were predicting they’d cost at TRW?’ I said, ‘Oh, probably a factor of three.’ He said, ‘We need a factor of 10.’ I thought, ‘That’s kind of crazy.’ But in the end, we’re closer to his number!
This is in response to the engine. Maybe they got the engine price 10x cheaper, but the other components not so much?
Eventually I expect used ones to be not only cheaper, but also more reliable. Like for (water)ships - they say “it’s new after you’ve owned it for a year”, the implication being that you spend the first year discovering and fixing manufacturing defects.
Recall that a lot of aerospace budget from the US is defense spending dressed up as something else. Similar to the way the original space race was a proxy war for a proxy war: If you can fly people into space you can fly an ICBM to Moscow/Washington DC.
Does it? I seem to remember reading somewhere that the "trunk" section will be mostly empty on crewed vehicles.
It makes sense. We've seen that Dragon aborts with the trunk attached for aerodynamic reasons. It seems likely that hauling a bunch of cargo together with an escaping crewed capsule isn't feasible.
You could also see that during the Demo-2 launch stream when the Dragon separated from the upper stage. There was a short segment where camera from the stage showed the underside of the Dragon and you could see that it was mostly just empty space inside.
What NASA pays doesn’t necessarily reflect the cost since we do not know the margins.
However, I do agree that it’s valuable to be skeptical of unproven claims regarding cost reduction, though most of what we say is that we do not know much about the current real cost.
There's a massive margin on that price, which allows them to fund their other developments such as the Starlink and Starship.
Whatever the values, what are interesting are the magnitudes.
Also I found that if you fly on a refurb unit you get a 30% reduction in price, so a budget flier is looking at a 3x improvement in cost, which is quite a lot closer to the goal multiple.
If those numbers are profitable for SpaceX, and not fiction, then hopefully they have enough revenue to fund iterations that improve on what they already have.
SpaceX could have very nice margins.
Ultimately it only matters what NASA pays , i.e. how much of the cost savings benefits the taxpayer and how NASA is using that savings
> The Crew Dragon arrived at the station’s Harmony port, docking at 10:16 a.m. EDT while the spacecraft were flying about 262 miles above the northern border of China and Mongolia.
It's hard for me to wrap my brain around this. They seem so far away but 262 miles above earth is about the distance from NYC to DC which doesn't seem far at all.
Docking begins to occur around 3:10PM GMT in the video. This link may send you to that point: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIZsnKGV8TE&t=695m0s
Is there an easy way to link to a specific time in live videos? I had to manually play around with the time to find the right point.
What got me, was that the whole boarding process was held up for over 30 minutes, because NASA couldn't progress past their 'hard wire' item on their checklist.
They eventually switched to RF (radio) direct link between the ISS and Dragon to be able to progress past that checklist item - later on the hard wire audio was fixed and working.
1. Why only two astronauts? and
2. How much is Crew Dragon costing?
For (1), it's stated  that Crew Dragon has a capacity of seven astronauts but only 4 for NASA? How does that work? Does that mean the NASA configuration only has 4 seats? I found this  saying seats 1 and 4 were empty.
Why not 4 astronauts? The answer seems to be that this is technically a test flight (Crew Demo-2). Passing this will fully certify Dragon. I guess it's better to risk 2 astronauts than 4. It probably also depends how many people you want to have on the ISS.
As for (2), I found this , which states the cost at $55m per astronaut. This seems... high? A full complement of 4 would cost $210m. Falcon 9 launches cost a fraction of that. Even Falcon Heavy is ~$90m.
For some reason I thought SpaceX was enabling sending up 7 astronauts for <$100m.
Compared to Soyuz , which cost NASA $80m/astronaut, that's a saving but not as much as I would've thought.
NASA asked SpaceX to change the configuration of the capsule to only support 4 astronauts for two reasons. The first is that they wanted a more mellow Load profile on the passengers in the case of a high-altitude (almost orbit) abort, so they wanted the seats in a different position. The first design had the seats fixed, and the screen pivoting down above them. This design has the seats pivoting, and the screen fixed. It also drops the maximum crew from 7 to 4. I’m not sure if SpaceX will use the larger configuration for their own private configurations.
The other reason is that seven is a lot, and NASA doesn’t plan on sending that many up on a single mission.
Seats 1 and four are empty on this mission. For future missions that only have three they will remove the extra seat. That said, the capsule seems amazingly spacious, for being a capsule.
As far as costing, the contract was written similar to how NASA pays the Russians (though that number is upwards of 87 million per seat right now). SpaceX itself owns the rockets and the spacecraft - not NASA. Think of it as a airline seat.
Finally, the vast majority of cost at this point are not the hardware - but rather the cost of complying with NASA’s testing. Everyone was assuming that NASA would do what they did with commercial cargo, and simply expect the cargo to show up with a minimal number of design reviews. With commercial crew, NASA took a much more proactive approach which led to a complete redesign of the capsule (SpaceX’s original plan was simply to reuse cargo), plus many many many design reviews.
Finally SpaceX has full pricing control right now. SpaceX is running some pretty massive margins (from what I have heard) on everything - but they are flushing all of that money into the goal of getting starship and spaceship and their insane next generation engine up, as well as starlink. They have deliberately only lowered their costs below their competitors, soaking margin for a while.
You've been in the teamwork game a long time, right? You know that each new team member added to a team does something like double or quadruple communication overhead. They're trying to work out the kinks - they're going to with a small team of experienced people to stay focused.
There's probably also a limit to how many people they want to keep track of on ISS, like you said. It's also less risky like you said - you need two people in case one gets incapacitated, and also for psychological support, but you don't want to risk any more people on the maiden voyage than you have to.
>Compared to Soyuz , which cost NASA $80m/astronaut, that's a saving but not as much as I would've thought.
There's more to it than costs. We now have the agency to launch as many astronauts as we want, when we want, rather than filling in a vacant seat the Russians have. Something not considered in just costs is we can also charge other nations for rides on our rockets, and as long as it's less than $80m, we'll make profits and it'll be a win for those nations who'd normally ride on Soyuz.
Then again, I ain't exactly a space telecom engineer, so what do I know? ;)
They've since switched back to RF, so apparently it ain't the end of the world.
And whats up with the guy with baseball bat while taking photo? Is that normal?
Its not the stream resolution, is it? Other knife-sharp features were visible.
Maybe the space station is fuzzy? Maybe the module material blurs shadows? What am I missing?
The sun has almost exactly the same apparent angular size from either Earth's surface or LEO, because it's almost exactly the same distance away. But since that angular size is only about half a degree, shadows observed at short distances appear fairly sharp, either on Earth or in space.
What you may be thinking of is that, in many cases, shadows are darker in space, because the sky is dark, even in broad daylight. There's no atmospheric scattering to provide indirect, ambient illumination of regions that are shaded from direct sunlight. But there can still be indirect lighting from other surfaces.
For example, in photos of Apollo astronauts on the moon, shaded regions of the astronauts' spacesuits are still fairly-well illuminated by light bouncing off the lunar surface. But shadowed regions of the surface itself appear almost pitch-black, because the only thing they can "see" is the dark sky.
If you mean the contrast between lit and shadowed areas, LEO is quite different from e.g. the moon, as even though it's out of the atmosphere, there's a lot of ambient light from the huge close Earth below.
That's because the sun is almost a 'point' light source because it's far away, and Earth is 'area' light source because it's close by. Also it depends how far the shadow source is from the shadow target.
Edit: time slipping
When we will, it will be the most important event in the five billion years history of our solar system. In other words, we are witnessing some pretty cool stuff.
The legacy he leaves will be greater than that of Ghengis Kahn, Ceasar, or Alexander the Great.
Of course, it’s a different vehicle than what they hope to one day take to Mars, but that’s still a huge step for any spacefaring organization to have made, especially when the stated overarching goal is to move huge numbers of people to a new planet.
Successful human spaceflight on reusable hardware > lower cost to orbit of personnel > increased economic activity in orbit > construction of manufacturing facilities > scale up of materials, capability, endurance and knowledge > ability to construct and launch Mars ships and supply a colony
Or something like that.
I’m in my forties and I don’t expect to see us on Mars in my lifetime, except on some poetic suicide mission (nice sidestep of euthanasia laws: “I’m not dying, I’m going to Mars!”). We might make something a bit more useful out of the Moon, though, if we don’t screw up too much.
Foreign colonists in the Americas (ignoring any political aspect of this) faced disease, starvation and attacks from natives but still colonised America because of a dream they had.
Seems like colonising Mars is the other way around, we stand more chance of fulfilment on Earth and failure going to Mars?
Some of us have an explorational spirit, a desire to be pioneers at all costs - isn't that why we want to go? Maybe it's toxoplasmosis.
One critical junction will be how much the Mars colony can avoid the smuggling in of bad ideas and ideologies. If done well, this could result in a radical divergence between the cultures, and wealth, of the two planets.
It's not like we haven't sent people to the ISS before. And it's not like SpaceX hasn't managed to reuse hardware before. It's basically just a mix of those two things.
Really the most significant things about this were that astronauts were launched to space from the US and it was a private company. And out of those, the first thing is really more symbolic than anything else.
The ISS is about 400 km from the surface of the Earth. Mars is like what, 225 000 000 km?
Lower cost to orbit translates pretty directly to increased economic activity in orbit, since said economic activity is less expensive to do (and therefore more accessible to more people).
But agreed. This ain't a huge achievement... yet. It's essential groundwork for that achievement, though.
Second reason is this is the first time the spacecraft has been built and run by a commercial company (spacex)
It's a testament to American capitalism. It's something to be very proud of.
It's the next step in the space age. This paves the way for many more companies and ventures.
The Russians used a KURS unit, which is a cooperative (the ISS has a transponder to talk to it) radar-based system. That was from Ukraine, and after going to war with Ukraine, Russia had to develop an in-house system.
All of this stuff is older technology, predating machine learning.
That said, I think that everyone anticipating a dramatic reduction in orbital cost needs to temper their enthusiasm a bit. UAL was expensive, as many other have previously noted, because it was a political jobs program. The existence of UAL gave the necessary cover for Musk & Co to envision radically more efficient designs.
However, that was then. As SpaceX continues to succeed, it will be harder to justify continued funding of UAL at the previous levels. Costs will be cut. People will cheer. And then, a well-meaning congressperson or two (with their eye on re-election) will introduce a rider onto the next funding bill: "Yes we want these great launch capabilities, but at least $1B must be spent within the state of Alabama" (or whatever).
This will work for a little while, but then more members of congress will jump on the gravy train. In order for SpaceX to maintain their launch contracts they will need to perform more and more work in distributed places. This will result in reduced organizational efficiency and increased launch cost.
The big opportunity here is commercial launch. If SpaceX can grow their civilian and international order book enough, they become less beholden to the US Govt and can push back on make-work contract requirements. But if not... I await their inevitable induction into UAL v2.