The first space flight in the USA since 2011 with personnel on board was successful. A capsule from SpaceX with the experienced astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley docked on Sunday at the International Space Station (ISS). “It was an honor for us, of course, to be a very small part of this,” said Hurley upon arrival.
The first manned flight by a private company to the ISS is an important step in the privatization of US space travel. Aviation companies such as Boeing, North American Aviation and McDonnell Douglas were also involved in the Apollo program, but only as a supplier of parts for the project designed by the space agency Nasa. Similar to the space shuttle program. Nasa is now placing orders that the provider is to carry out in full. Among other things, SpaceX received orders for six manned return flights to the ISS for three billion dollars.
NASA wants to save money on space projects
The privatization has two backgrounds: Since Barack Obama, the US has been planning its own space programs again, and Nasa wants to save money on the expensive projects. However, this will only succeed if several companies compete for orders and a monopolist cannot charge maximum prices. Boeing is in the starting blocks with the Starliner, on whose launch vehicle other companies like Blue Origin from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos are participating.
However, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX for short, is in the lead, based in Hawthorne, an aviation location near Los Angeles. It was founded in 2002 by the entrepreneur Elon Musk, before the well-known electric car manufacturer Tesla, by the way. SpaceX works with its own products, even the engines are newly developed. These are also reused, which lowers costs. In 2009, it was the first time that a satellite from Malaysia was transported into earth orbit; since 2012, unmanned ISS transport flights have been carried out, and the US company is said to have already carried spyware.
SpaceX is struggling with earthly problems
Unlike Tesla, SpaceX is not listed on the stock exchange, so there is hardly any business data. In 2019, sales were estimated to be $ 2.7 billion. According to its own statements, the company is already making profits. In view of the high investment costs, this is rather doubtful. In any case, it seems to be struggling with earthly problems: A year and a half ago, SpaceX announced that it would have to cut ten percent of its workforce “due to the extremely difficult challenges”. The current number of employees is said to be around 6000.
Such actions are a side note for Musk, because he has big plans. Tesla is supposed to turn the automotive industry inside out, SpaceX is to change space travel. The Falcon Heavy rocket can carry dozens of satellites at once. In 2023, the company plans to fly a Japanese billionaire around the moon. But the obsessed entrepreneur Musk wants to go much further: in 2025, the first person is to land on Mars. Musk also commented on docking at the ISS as follows: “Hopefully this is the first step on the way to civilization on Mars.”