Early this month, Hawthorne-based rocket venture SpaceX launched an unmanned version of its Dragon capsule into orbit, took it for a few spins around Earth and then brought it home with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
The total cost — including design, manufacture, testing and launch of the company's Falcon 9 rocket and the capsule — was about $800 million.
Over the last six years, NASA has spent nearly $10 billion on the Ares I rocket and Orion capsule — its own version, more or less, of what SpaceX has launched. The agency has come up with little more than cost overruns and technical woes.
In October, Congress scrapped the Constellation moon program and ordered the agency to start over with a rocket and capsule design capable of taking humans to explore the solar system.
Maser warned that without reforms NASA would simply repeat the Constellation experience.
Just 800 million compared to what the Government spends to do such an event would be considered that of a miser. With NASA already in trouble trying to test etc a replacement for the Space shuttle and facing program cancellations with a limited budget here is SpaceX talking about speeding up the unmanned flights to the ISS!
SpaceX is, if anything, a young and restless company, a company on the move and as such they want to combine the mission requirements of the second and third flights – into one. In short, SpaceX is hoping to send their next Dragon – to the space station itself, cutting out one demonstration flight in the process. However, while officials at SpaceX and the company’s CEO and CTO Elon Musk are attempting to relive the golden age of manned spaceflight (this effort is somewhat similar to the accelerated launch of the Apollo 8 mission) – NASA appears uncertain about speeding up the process. NASA has stated that if all went well with the first flight of the Dragon that it would consider speeding up the program.
The next flight of the Dragon spacecraft could take place as soon as the middle of next year. According to Musk, there are few differences between the maneuvers that Dragon conducted on Orbit this past Wednesday – and those that would be required if the craft were to rendezvous with the ISS. For a mission to the orbiting outpost, the Dragon would need to be equipped with solar arrays and certain equipment on board the craft would need to be upgraded.
Will NASA be around, of course it will NASA however neglected is part of American culture and pride but could NASA become a minority role perhaps that of safety oversight etc?