While the weekend is ultimately a great opportunity for catching up on your gaming or Netflix’s backlogs, I couldn’t get around doing much of that because the time I did have available was spent catching up on the Saturday launch of two NASA astronauts onboard a SpaceX rocket. What made this launch so different from previous space launches we’ve had?
Well’ apart from the obvious SA connection in Elon Musk, CEO and founder of SpaceX, it’s that this is the first time any commercial rocket has put human beings into space and the first signs of possible commercialisation of the space race. Something which might put a lot of people off, but which will ultimately lead to faster development and growth in this sector as a result.
What also really excited me though is the new technology that made it all possible. Whereas all previous rocket launches that we’ve seen in the past have been built off older model rocket designs with lots of mechanical switches and buttons, the new rocket was controlled completely remotely with UI and input taking place on just three touch screens. Something which the below video unpacks in more detail about how it all worked:
It’s this type of innovation that is not just going to move the space industry forward in its simplicity but is also actually a lot cheaper in the long run as software and less expensive (though still very expensive) manufactured components drive and control these remarkable new modules. This means that more can be made at a cheaper rate and powered with the same software. If you think software makes space flight easier and could increase your chances of being actual astronaut, perhaps gives this little space docking simulator by SpaceX a try and see how hard it actually is – and this is probably easier than the real thing when you aren’t playing with billions of dollars of stuff.
The Verge has written a rather detailed article that unpacks all of the hardware behind the actual capsule which transported the two astronauts in a little more detail and provides some great insight into all the technology involved in this historic space flight.
However, another feature that made SpaceX’s new rocket so incredible was how it was able to land its booster payload from the outer orbits of the atmosphere successfully on a drone ship through some innovative tracking technology. This not only means less waste from the blast, but possible reuse of the payload for future launches, again something which could drive down the costs in future of the space race as they perfect the technology.
It may still feel like a bit of pipe dream for now, but if companies continue to work with this technology and improve its ability to launch into space at significantly reduced costs, the age of space tourism could be upon us. Something that may still be out of reach for those of us that aren’t millionaires, but who knows what the future can do if we focus on developing the technology right. And, quite honestly, there has never been a better time to leave earth than now. Can I get a one-way ticket?
Last Updated: June 1, 2020