SpaceX Docks with the ISS

SpaceX Docks with the ISS

Luke Jones, Kiara Warren, and Sean Homan

     A future of commercial space travel became closer to reality when SpaceX’s shuttle, Crew Dragon, docked with the International Space Station this past November. 

     Twenty two years ago, on November 20th, the first piece of the ISS (international Space Station) was placed in orbit, with the other parts being added from then on, until the most recent part in 2009. Originally the station was only designed to last fifteen years, meaning it would’ve been decommissioned in 2013. But now, it’s expected to be usable until 2024. I say decommissioned, but what I really mean is that it’ll be de-orbited and crashed safely into the ocean, specifically, a place called Point Nemo in the South Pacific ocean, and it’s the farthest you can ever be from any landmass. 

     The ISS has operated all this time primarily under the watchful eye of NASA, with assistance from the ESA (Europe), JAXA (Japan), CSA (Canada), and Roscosmos (Russia). And on November 15th, just five days before the station’s birthday, a crew from Elon Musk’s company, SpaceX, docked with the station. This marks the first time ever that a privately owned company has docked with the ISS. Phil McAllister, the director of commercial spaceflight at NASA says: “For the first time in history, there is a commercial capability from a private sector entity to safely and reliably transport people to space.”

     After launching on Sunday, November 15th at 7:27 in the afternoon, the crew of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft spent 27 hours on their way to the space station. It was confirmed on the following Monday that the Crew Dragon had docked at the ISS. The crew was composed of three astronauts from NASA, Michael S. Hopkins, Shannon Walker, and Victor J. Glover as well as a Japanese astronaut, Soichi Noguchi. They will stay on board for six months, which, if everything goes as planned, will be “The longest human space mission launched from the United States,” according to NASA. 

      The space shuttle carried more than passengers. It also took over 500 pounds of cargo that included experiment equipment and tools for research into topics like the ways that space affects a person’s health. These experiments could lead to new knowledge essential in longer space voyages. 

     This is not the first launch from Space X. In fact, earlier this year two astronauts were sent to the ISS on a Crew Dragon, but that was more of a test flight to find any errors in the spacecraft. Now that the Crew Dragon has docked, many new possibilities have emerged. 

     This is a very big step for the future of bringing civilians to space. This is the first time a privately built spaceship successfully went to space and made it to the ISS. This means that we can only grow from here and continue bringing civilians to space. Another company called Axiom Space based in Houston, Texas is planning to launch their own low orbit space station using the ISS as a starting point. In 2024, they plan to send modules to the ISS in order to provide more living space for the astronauts. When the ISS retires they will “detach” and make their own Space station. This is exciting, but what’s better is that they will offer to take tourists up to space! Axiom has already signed a contract with SpaceX to make this happen, they are planning to put this in effect late next year.

     With broader horizons and strides toward a future with more research and people being sent to space through privately owned companies, civilians could go to space, more minds could be put to research about its effects, and overall the human race could interact with and learn more about the Universe we are a part of.