Nowadays, the space industry is developing at a very rapid pace and many events occur in this area. It is very important to understand that now, not only the NASA space technology research fellowship but also many public and private organizations around the world work in this field.
In this article, we want to tell you about what we should expect from explore space process in the near future. It is worth noting that a lot of interesting things happened in the first two months of the current year, and much more was planned for the remaining ten:
- The Chinese probe “Cháng’é sìhào” successfully sat on the far side of the moon and has already begun to send photographs of its surface.
- The NASA interplanetary station (“New Horizons”) flew past the asteroid Ultima Thule, making it the most distant object ever visited by earthly vehicles.
- New space engines from the company SpaceX “Raptor” were able to break the pressure record in the combustion chamber of the legendary Russian creation RD-180. “Raptor” showed 268.9 bar of pressure, which is 1.9 bar more than that of the RD-180. According to Elon Musk words, they want to achieve the maximum allowable pressure of 300 bar in the future.
- On March 2, 2019, the launch of the Crew Dragon manned spacecraft from SpaceX occurred.
- In March of this year, another launch of the CST-100 Starliner from the Boeing company is expected.
This is just a short list of events that have taken place and will take place this year. Let’s talk about all this (and not only) in more details.
1. Orbital ships
As it is known, space projects last for years, now in the Crew Dragon and CST-100 Starliner projects, the works have already entered the final phase: the launch facilities have been modified, the crews have been selected and trained, and the ships pass the last checks. Boeing and SpaceX are literally toe-to-toe, but the second one is a bit ahead. Although the launch dates were constantly moving: initially, the first unmanned launch of the Crew Dragon was scheduled for January 7, and after that, it was postponed to January 17, and then after the US government stopped working, the launch dates were moved to February without a clear indication of the day. As a result, it was launched only on March 2, 2019. A day after the launch, it successfully docked with the ISS (International Space Station), now astronauts are testing it.
The first unmanned flight of the CST-100 Starliner is scheduled for March 2019. According to the latest information, in November last year, the ship from Boeing began the final tests. It is worth noting that the description of the mission is known only in general terms: the ship must go to the ISS, dock with it, spend some time in orbit and make a soft landing. Manned missions (that is, with people on board) are scheduled for June for Crew Dragon and for August for Starliner, but given that the deadlines for launching unmanned missions have been constantly postponed, this is only preliminary data.
In other countries, the newest space technology is also actively developing and works for development manned spacecraft are underway. For example, tests of a Chinese ship of a new generation are expected in the second half of 2019, there is not much information about it yet. It is known that its development has been undertaken for several years. In 2016, at the first test launch of the “CZ-5”, its scale model was tested.
Indian manned ship is expected in 2022. Its development is in full swing, it is known that in the summer of 2018 emergency rescue tests were conducted.
2. Why is the launch of Crew Dragon so important?
It is worth noting that since 2011, not a single person has been sent into space from the USA. Therefore, the flight of Crew Dragon has great importance for the entire American space program. A similar situation has happened because of the terrible disaster that took the lives of seven astronauts at once. The crash of the Columbia shuttle happened back in 2003, after which the entire program of the Space Shuttle was closed. But at that time, there was an active building of ISS, so the flights continued until 2011. After that, American astronauts were forced to get “to work” with the help of Russian spacecraft “Soyuz“. The cost of one “ticket” to the near-earth orbit was equal to $81 million. But for the United States, saving is not so important as the question of prestige. And now, with the help of SpaceX engineers, launching astronauts into space from the USA can become a reality again.
This time there were no people aboard the Crew Dragon, but the ship was not empty, there was a Ripley mannequin (a reference to the movie “Alien”), in SpaceX’s corporate spacesuit. Many different multiple sensors were located on the mannequin, to measure the loads that astronauts will be exposed to in the future. Also, there was more than 180 kg of payload on the ship, which was intended for the crew of the International Space Station.
On March 8, the ship undocked from the ISS and successfully land on the surface of the Earth. This is one of the most important parts of this mission since this ship is reusable. Already in June of this year, live astronauts – Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley may fly in Crew Dragon. It is worth noting that the ship is designed for four people, but if it is necessary it can accommodate up to seven astronauts.
3. Light Carrier Rocket Development
Recently, the light rockets market has begun to actively develop. Several light carrier rockets developed by private space companies should fly for the first time in 2019.
- On November 18, 2018, a test flight of a modified Boeing 747 with a 21-meter Launcher One rocket from Virgin occurred. The first launch of this rocket is expected in the first quarter of 2019. Launcher One will take off from the air and will be able to put into orbit from 300 kg to 500 kg (depending on the height).
- The Indian small SSLV light carrier rocket should fly in May 2019. This rocket was created by the state agency of India, and not a private company. This is a three-stage solid-fuel rocket, which can take from 300 kg to 500 kg weight to a low orbit.
- In June 2019, “Hyperbola 1”, which is being developed by the Chinese private company iSpace, should fly. The suborbital launch was conducted in the autumn of last year. According to the company’s engineers, the orbital version will be able to put about 300 kg weight on a low orbit.
4. Super Heavy Rockets
- According to the plans of Elon Musk, in 2019, SpaceX should conduct two non-commercial launches of the super-heavy Falcon Heavy rocket. Recall that this rocket flew only once, it happened on February 6, 2018. That time, Elon’s personal car, the first-generation red Tesla Roadster, was used as a cargo.
- In 2020, the production of new heavyweight rocket New Glenn, the company Blue Origin, will begin. It is worth noting that it is being developed since 2012, and next year we will be able to see the results of the company’s work.
- A test launch of the SLS rocket, which is being developed using NASA technology, is scheduled on June 2020.
5. Flights to the moon
Open space technology learning is becoming much more developed every year. Although human was already on the surface of our natural satellite half a century ago, it was very poorly studied. Therefore, several missions related to the visit to the Moon are planned at once in 2019.
On February 22, 2019, the Indonesian satellite PSN-6 was launched, as well as the first Israel lunar rover, Beresheet. The last one should land on the surface of the moon in early April 2019. Its main purpose is to collect samples of lunar soil. Scientists discovered a rather interesting magnetic anomaly in the area of the planned landing and they want to study it.
- “Chandrayaan-2” plans a launch in April 2019. This is a complex mission of the Indian space agency with an orbiter, as well as a landing moon rover. On the orbiter, (total weight 2300 kg) there will be a camera with which it will be possible to take photographs of the surface of the moon with high resolution, as well as four scientific tools. The main task of the landing gear (weight 1400 kg) is a soft landing on the surface of the moon. The lunar rover is solar powered, so it can operate for no more than 15 days. The moonlit night can become the main problem for it.
- The mission “Cháng’é wǔhào” is planned for 2019 (without the exact date). Its main task will be the delivery of samples of lunar soil to Earth.
- PTScientists is still planning to launch its own ALINA machine in 2019. But it’s hard to believe in it since the company has no reports with tests and photos of the finished device. The PTScientists have a rather interesting idea: they want to launch rovers onto the surface of the moon and see what the landing site of the Apollo 17 mission looks like in 1972. But given that there is not enough proper information about this project on the network, it appears that it may not take place this year.
- SpaceX plans to launch StarShip in 2023, which will fly around the moon, on its board, there will be Japanese billionaire Yūsaku Maezawa and cultural figures.
6. Scientific missions
- In April 2019, observatory SPECTRUM-RG “Spectrum-X-Ray-Gamma” should go into open space, which will be a great event in the Russian cosmonautics. Especially, given the fact that the previous SPECTRUM-R device was launched back in 2011.
- In December 2019, the Japanese “Hayabusa-2” automatic interplanetary station will finish its work on the “Ryugu” asteroid and go back. By December 2020, it will have to deliver asteroid samples to Earth.
Based on all the above information, we can conclude that the year 2019 will be quite interesting for the space industry. The pace of development of this industry suggests that people will again be able to walk on the surface of the moon, and also go to the nearest planet Mars in the coming years.
Space has millions of unsolved mysteries that we still have to unravel. We will monitor developments of events and promptly inform you of the latest and most interesting information related to the space industry.
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