A historical event happened on May 30 2020, when the first private company successfully sent humans into orbit (Crew Dragon Demo-2). On the News features overviews by ISR-Lisboa researchers on historical events and news in which they have some expertise. Enjoy this informed comment by Professor Rodrigo Ventura, researcher on the intersection of robotics and artificial intelligence applied to space, about the latest docking by the Space X crew on the International Space Station.

Beginning of a new space era

SpaceX opened last Saturday (30-May-2020) a new space era with the launch of NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, onboard the SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, launched by a SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. Last time the US launched astronauts to space and to the International Space Station (ISS) was almost 9 years ago, with the final Space Shuttle mission STS-135 on 8-Jul-2011. Since then, traveling to and from the ISS have been monopolized by Roscosmos’ Soyuz spacecrafts. Last Saturday’s mission, called Demo Mission 2, featured the first commercially operated human-crewed spacecraft to reach space and the ISS. In addition, the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket safely landed on SpaceX’s drone-ship Of Course I Still Love You, a few minutes after launch. The recoverability of launch hardware is key for the reduction of launch costs, allowing for more frequent human space flights. This may very well be just the beginning for SpaceX: they are among one of the three selected companies to provide a Moon lander, while continuing rapid development of Starship, on an hallucinating loop of test-fail-redesign, having just exploded their last prototype SN4 just one day before this launch. Radically different from common practice in the space industry, this approach has been proving quite successful, as both Falcon rockets and Dragon capsules have followed similar rapid development strategies. SpaceX was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk, with the ultimate goal of enabling the colonization of Mars.

PS: Even though the Crew Dragon is fully autonomous, it can be manually piloted if needed. You can get an idea of piloting Crew Dragon with this simulator: https://iss-sim.spacex.com/ 

Rodrigo Ventura