What is the going rate for getting an individual from point A, on Earth, to point B, the ISS? The Russian contract currently in effect charges nearly $58 million and is soon to demand $63 million per seat per trip, no frequent flier miles, nothing. Now to be fair, the cost change is due to an 8.5% Russian general inflation and the costs of preparing and processing for the trip. And we do want the preparation & processing done!
NASA has put out the call for civilian agencies to step up to handle the human cargo and is currently working with SpaceX and others to that end. How much does SpaceX intend to charge NASA? In a NASA news conference in 2012, SpaceX is quoted as having put a $20 million a seat launch cost. That is a saving of $43 million – and that’s not chump change! That’s three seats SpaceX to one seat Russian.
SpaceX is currently under contract by NASA for resupply missions to the ISS and utilizes its Dragon spacecraft. A partially reusable spacecraft launched into space atop the SpaceX Falcon 9 two stage and is capable of both manned and robotic operation. *The reason it is partially reusable? It boasts a nose cone that jettisons after launch and a trunk that separates from the craft before reentry, burning in the Earth’s atmosphere.
The Dragon is equipped with 18 Draco thrusters, dual-redundant in all axes: any two can fail without compromising the vehicle's control over its pitch, yaw, roll and translation. During its initial cargo and crew flights, the Dragon capsule will land in the Pacific Ocean and be returned to the shore by ship. But check this! Realy cool is that SpaceX plans to eventually install deployable landing gear and use eight upgraded SuperDraco thrusters to perform a solid earth propulsive landing.
Before NASA can save they must of course spend. It is important at this crucial juncture where SpaceX, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada Corporation during what is anticipated as being the final step in their program. Goals aim for test flights in 2016 and an operational system before 2017 ends. At each successful step NASA has awarded money that helps the company to get through the next step. Not enough money now and the whole program could experience problems AND we would remain dependent on our Russian friends for transportation.
Obama is requesting that $821 million be placed in NASA’s Commercial Crew program; The Senate drops down to $771, and the House wants it capped at $500 million. Just a thought – do you really want to sit atop a rocket with liquid oxygen and kerosene and as it lights up to take off, think to yourself, ‘man, wish they could have done more in developing it’? SpaceX (sorry Boeing And Sierra Nevada, I know more about SpaceX) not only has a awesome plan involving new technology that they have been showing to be viable in tests to date, but I am psyched to see this when it comes to fruition! A capsule that will land itself when returning rather than splashing in the ocean? Reusable stages that also land back at the platform? Unprecedented turnaround time in launches? WOW! Sign me up!