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SpaceX's Crew Dragon Prepares to Make History for Private Companies in Space

Artist's conception of SpaceX Crew Dragon docking to the International Space Station. Photo: NASA
Artist's conception of SpaceX Crew Dragon docking to the International Space Station. Photo: NASA

SpaceX is preparing to launch its first Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station Saturday. Although the spacecraft won’t have astronauts on board, this test run will set a precedent for taking astronauts into low earth orbit.

Space Florida’s Vice President Government & External Relations Dale Ketcham, Orlando Sentinel reporter Chabeli Herrera, Astralytical’s Laura Forczyk and 90.7’s space reporter Brendan Byrne join Intersection to discuss the impact of private business on human spaceflight in Florida and the rest of the U.S.

Dragon will dock in the ISS 27 hours after launching where it will spend five days before re-entering Earth’s atmosphere and splashing into the Atlantic ocean off the coast of Florida.

Since 2011, NASA has been working with SpaceX, a private space company founded by Elon Musk, and Boeing on the multi-billion dollar commercial crew for Dragon. The shuttle is expected to set a new standard for launching human missions even deeper into space.

Ketcham says the Crew Dragon launch is the culmination of a process that began in 2011 when President Obama scrapped NASA's Constellation program in favor of commercial spaceflight companies — a move that, although initially controversial, ended up being “the signature accomplishment of the Obama administration in the space field.”

“This is really kind of coming to fruition, and I think for the most part everybody’s excited about it [and] recognizes this is the right way to go,” he says.

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Ketcham predicted that in the wake of SpaceX and Boeing’s partnerships with NASA, the level of competition between other private companies for a spot in the space sector will depend on the demand presented by space stations.

Herrera said anticipation for the launch has been stirring among station employees, reporters and space fans alike. She said the crews will be paying close attention to how the capsule docks with the ISS and re-enters Earth’s atmosphere, as well as how the mannequin inside withstands conditions.

“This is going to be a really exciting launch,” Herrera says. “The teams at NASA, SpaceX, [and] the International Space Station have been working closely together on this for some time, and if all goes well this is going to clear the way for a crew to launch.”

Forczyk says with the private sector playing a bigger role in low earth orbit,  NASA can focus on other projects like the Space Launch System.

“We want to have the private sector operating more than they currently are in lower earth orbit as well as expanding outward beyond Earth," says Forczyk.

Click on the link below to hear the conversation with the Orlando Sentinel's Chabelli Herrera, space policy analyst Laura Forczyk and 90.7 space reporter Brendan Byrne:

[audio mp3="https://www.wmfe.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/SpaceX_crew_dragon.mp3"][/audio]


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