by Ryan Bale
PLASMA 5 online exclusive
Right now, SpaceX is leading the new age of spaceflight and pushing the boundaries of what is possible. SpaceX, also known as Space Exploration Technologies, has the goal of lowering the cost of spaceflight and bringing humans to the surface of Mars and colonizing it. This might prevent the extinction of the human race and make humans a multiplanetary species. It is currently the fastest growing space company and has accumulated over $12 Billion in launch contracts. They’re currently working on building the most reliable and most powerful rockets on Earth, and have been revolutionizing space technology and making historic milestones multiple times a year.
So far, SpaceX has been succeeding in lowering the cost of spaceflight with their Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets by landing, then reusing, the first stage booster and side boosters of both rockets. With the new upgrades for the Block 5 variant of their rockets, they have been able to achieve rapid reuse of their boosters with minimal refurbishments. The time between re-flying these boosters has also become shorter, and they have accumulated a good-sized fleet of landed boosters to launch again. SpaceX has been successful in lowering costs, as we’ve already seen, with the prices for the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy being significantly lower than the competitors’, pushing them to make advancements in their rockets to keep up.
In July of this year, SpaceX will be launching humans into space for the first time in the lifespan of their company. The company has been developing and testing their Crew Dragon spacecraft, which will return astronauts to the International Space Station since the Space Shuttle retired in 2011. At the beginning of March, SpaceX launched their Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station and safely returned it back to Earth, proving the systems onboard worked correctly to ensure crew safety during launch and throughout the mission. In July, SpaceX will launch two US astronauts to the ISS, where they will stay for a total of 8 days before returning to Earth.
Starting this year, SpaceX is heading toward their main goal of launching humans to Mars by beginning the development and testing of their fully reusable Starship/Super Heavy rocket. This rocket is primarily composed of two sections: Starship and the Super Heavy booster. Starship houses the passengers and the cargo that will fly to and land on Mars and the Moon, while Super Heavy is the main booster that will carry Starship into space and land back at the launch site to be refueled and launched again. Per launch, Starship is capable of carrying up to 100 passengers, plus cargo, into space and is able to refuel on Mars, before launching back to Earth from Mars and the Moon. This won’t be the only thing that Starship will do, as SpaceX also has plans to use it to transport people across the planet like an airliner. Starship and Super Heavy will launch from various spots on the Earth and will be able to travel to the other side of the planet in roughly half an hour. The successes of Starship and Super Heavy will be very important to achieving SpaceX’s goals of making life multiplanetary and expanding the human race further into the stars.