Roamy here. Okay, I’m not talking about $20 million to buy a seat on a Soyuz. I’m talking about SpaceX and the successful launch of the Falcon 9 rocket today with the Dragon capsule for payload.
This has been partially funded through the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program, which you have to admit, has had more success than the Ares rocket program. The first Falcon 9 launch was in June; today’s looked pretty good. It’s always nice to hear “all systems nominal” for a launch and to see a good stage separation.
The Dragon spacecraft has a cargo version for resupplying the International Space Station, due to be tested next year, and, eventually, a capsule version for a crew of seven. The parachute system and guidance systems worked – the capsule landed within 800 meters of the target, and the retrieval ship was there within 20 minutes. I’m looking forward to hearing how well the heatshield on today’s test vehicle held up. Instead of space shuttle-type tiles, the heatshield is made of PICA, or phenolic impregnated carbon ablator, and I’ve had some experience with that. It’s been used successfully on the Stardust spacecraft.
SpaceX’s competitor for commercial space flight is Orbital Sciences. The Cygnus cargo resupply vehicle is slated to launch on a Taurus II rocket next year.