Simanaitis Says

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CELEBRATING SECONDHAND ROCKETRY

ONE-USE ROCKETRY IS so 20th Century. In the old days of space exploration, rockets and their boosters were one-use entities, discarded in the ocean as part of the space capsule launch and return. Then came the Space Shuttle, launched by conventional one-use launch vehicles, but having continued use after returning to Earth. 

Our Recyclable Era. Elon Musk’s SpaceX pioneered the concept of recyclable launch vehicles; this, with amazing return and refurbishment of its Falcon 9 rockets. Now, for the first time, these “secondhand” launch vehicles have been combined with recycled crew capsules.

A recycled Falcon 9 rocket and its Crew Dragon capsule are rolled to the Cape Canaveral launchpad on April 16, 2021. Image by Aubrey Gemignani/NASA via AP in The New York Times, April 22, 2021.

The recycled status of this SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle is evident with signs of its controlled return to Earth. SpaceX writes, “Falcon 9 is the world’s first orbital class reusable rocket. Reusability allows SpaceX to refly the most expensive parts of the rocket, which in turn drives down the cost of space access.” The company notes that its Falcon 9 series has had 113 total launches, 73 total landings, and 56 reflown rockets.

A Falcon 9 returns to Cape Canaveral. Image from qz.com.

The Crew Dragon Endeavor. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule Endeavour delivered four astronauts to the International Space Station early Saturday, April 24, 2021. The European Space Agency’s Thomas Pesquet, NASA’s Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Akihiko Hoshide will reside on the ISS for six months.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour approaches the ISS  docking station. Image from NASA live feed by AFP for rawstory.com.

This was Crew Dragon Endeavor’s second visit to the ISS: On May 30, 2020, it had delivered astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken in the first crewed flight test of a Dragon capsule. It was also the first crewed orbital spaceflight by a private company.

A Family Matter. In her trip to the ISS, astronaut Megan McArthur occupied the same Endeavour seat that her husband astronaut Bob Behnken had in the 2020 flight. She’ll be in space for a longer duration, though. Behnken’s ISS activity was initially scheduled for two weeks and then extended for more than two months. 

Indeed, they’re not the first astronaut pair. Dr. Rhea Seddon and Capt. Robert “Hoot” Gibson met in the 1978 NASA astronaut class. They married three years later.

A Busy Place 254 Miles Above Earth. An earlier Crew Dragon capsule has been at the ISS since December 7, 2020, when it brought a load of cargo. This Crew Dragon Resilience is expected to stay attached to the space station until April 28, 2021, when it’s used to rotate four ISS astronauts back to Earth.

This contingent of 11 astronauts and cosmonauts is currently aboard the ISS. Image by NASA TV from space.com.

“Commonplace” is entirely too common a word to describe these fabulous activities. Yet how routine these magnificent technical achievements have become! ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021 

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