Friday, June 01, 2012

Succesful Dragon Flight Heralds New Way of Doing Business in Space

SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is grappled by the International Space Station on Fri., May 25, 2012. Image Credit: NASA
Yesterday's successful splashdown and recovery of the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft concluded a groundbreaking mission that marks a change in the way business is done in space. Instead of being designed to a top-down list of requirements from NASA, the vehicle was designed internally by SpaceX for carrying cargo and eventually crew into space. (NASA, as the original primary customer through the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program does have input for some incremental changes to satisfy safety requirements.) SpaceX will soon be joined by Orbital Sciences Corporation (OSC) in delivering cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). OSC will start launching their Cygnus/Antares vehicles from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at Wallops Island, VA later this year.
Beyond cargo delivery, the Dragon flight also advances the prospect of commercial crew services to the ISS in a few years. Other markets, such as Bigelow Aerospace commercial space stations will foster an exciting expansion of commercial space activity in the near future.