WASHINGTON In the run up to the historic launch of the firstcommercial spacecraft to the International Space Station, NASAofficials and space entrepreneurs stressed that the results of thetest flight should be judged in terms of the overall strategy ofshifting manned orbital launches from the government to the privatesector. Meanwhile, a separate long-range effort to develop a mannedspacecraft that could someday leave the solar system gainedmomentum with the award of research contract. On Saturday (May 19), an unmanned spacecraft developed by SpaceExploration Technologies Inc., or SpaceX (Hawthorne, Calif.), isscheduled to lift off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Ifall goes as planned during the ambitious mission, SpaceX s Dragon spacecraft would be the first commercial spacecraft to dock with the spacestation. |
The flight is the second flight test for SpaceX under a NASAcommercial cargo services contract. SpaceX successfully launched anunmanned Dragon spacecraft into orbit and recovered it after asplashdown in December 2010. The upcoming mission is by far the most ambitious commercial spaceflight ever attempted. NASA officials and commercial spacecompanies cautioned that even if SpaceX achieves only half itsmission goals, the flight should still be considered a success. Test flights are called test flights for a reason, said former Intelexecutive Jeff Greason , founder of XCOR Aerospace (Mojave, Calif.), who participated in abriefing Thursday on the upcoming SpaceX launch.
There s such athing as luck good and bad. If SpaceX achieves half of it goals, Greason said, That sstill one for the books. Deputy NASA Administrator Lori Garver added that the success of theSpaceX test flight will ultimately be judged by the Americanpublic. Any outcome is still a test, because we aren t doingthis for supplying [the] space station, we re doing it as atest, Garver said.
It is a new way of doing things. We had asuccessful launch in 2010 and we re confident SpaceX is ready togo. Separately, a foundation headed by a former NASA astronaut has beentapped by a Pentagon agency to begin planning for a futuristicproject to develop starship technology that would usher in theage of interstellar space travel within the next century. The 100Year Starship program was launched in 2010 by the Defense AdvancedResearch Projects Agency as a way to stimulate development of afuturistic spacecraft designed to leave the solar system andexplore the stars.
Seed funding totaling about $500,000 for the starship project wasawarded Thursday (May 17) to the Dorothy Jamison Foundation forExcellence, a Houston-based non-profit group promoting STEMeducation that was formed by Dorothy Mae Jemison, a U.S. formershuttle astronaut. The 100-Year Starship study is about more than building aspacecraft or any one specific technology, Paul Eremenko,Darpa s starship study coordinator said in launching the program. We endeavor to excite several generations to commit to theresearch and development of breakthrough technologies andcross-cutting innovations.
One Hundred Year Starship is about building the tools we need totravel to another star system in the next hundred years, Jemisonsaid in a statement. We re embarking on a journey across timeand space.
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