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Home / Science / Why 2019 is shaping up to be a stellar year for space exploration

Why 2019 is shaping up to be a stellar year for space exploration

Elon Musk is inclined to chirp the artistic representations of the rockets and spacecraft he intends to build, offering his followers a taste of the future he imagines for humanity on other planets . So, when he recently posted a picture of a launchpad walkway leading to his rocket and his spaceship, Musk felt compelled to clarify in a follow-up tweet.

"Sorry, to be clear, this photo is real" wrote . "Nothing made".

Although the prospect of the return of human space flights from American soil sometimes seemed like a mirage, NASA astronauts could this year return to space from the Florida Space Coast for the first time since the space shuttle was in retirement more than seven years ago. If it were successful, it would have punctuated a year that government officials and industry believe may mark a turning point in the US space program, which could see all sorts of new milestones as NASA celebrates the 50th anniversary of lunar landing.

Boeing is also working to develop a spaceship hoping to ferry NASA astronauts to the International Space Station by the end of 2019, which means that there will not be just an American spacecraft capable of flying astronauts in orbit. After successfully scrubbing what many consider the edge of space last month, Virgin Galactic intends to carry out space tourism in 2019. Blue Origin also hopes to fly its first test mission in space this year. And the small missile companies hope to start launching into orbit on a more regular basis.

NASA is pushing for a return to the moon, and the White House has made space a national priority, replenishing the National Space Council, headed by Vice President Pence.

"We worked to return to the Moon and go to Mars for years, creating a diversified suborbital and a low-earth orbit economy and looking for political, technical and monetary will to make it a reality," said Jared Stout , the former deputy executive secretary of the Space Council, who is now a political consultant at Venable, a law firm. "In 2019, we are on the verge of realizing the dreams of decades of planning and energy poured into the space business."

When it comes to space, there are always stops and delays. Descending from the Earth's surface is difficult and dangerous. It requires enormous amounts of energy, and nothing seems to go according to plan.

Virgin Galactic had a fatal accident in 2014. And Musk recently tweeted that the first flight of the spacecraft designed to carry

"The first flights are particularly dangerous, since c & # 39 It is very new hardware. "

These warnings aside, here's a look at what's to come in 2019.


These are the first astronauts who will fly into SpaceX and Boeing in the spacecraft for NASA's commercial crew program and they will revive human space flights from US soil. From left: Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins, Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley, Nicole Mann, Chris Ferguson, Eric Boe, Josh Cassada and Sunita Williams. (Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)

In 2014, when NASA awarded the SpaceX contracts of Boeing and Musk to fly its astronauts into the space station, NASA administrator Charles Bolden stated that he would establish "the stage for what promises to be the most ambitious and exciting chapter in the history of NASA and human spaceflight."

He swore that the first flights would take place by 2017, putting an end to the dependency of the NASA from Russia to fly its astronauts in space.

The program has suffered arrest jokes, including the lack of congressional funding. Now both Boeing and SpaceX are scheduled to fly test flights with humans this year, although many think there will be continued delays in the program, potentially pushing at least one of the human flights for next year.

SpaceX was supposed to fly testing mission without humans on board this month, but NASA recently announced it would be postponed to February.

Meanwhile, NASA is conducting a review of company security, spurred on by Musk smoking marijuana on a podcast.


A SpaceX Falcon space missile launches from the historic 39-A launch platform at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral in February 2018. (Thom Baur / Reuters)

After emerging from a major 2018, in which he has flown record 21 times, the company hopes to continue his cadence this year. But 2019 began on a negative note, announcing at the end of Friday that it was firing 10% of its more than 6,000 employees, saying it was to become "a leaner company" to achieve its many goals. The announcement came a few months after the Air Force awarded lucrative contracts to many of its competitors, but not to SpaceX, which was seen by many in the industry as a blow to the company .

However, he claims it is healthy, with a complete poster of commercial satellites to be launched, in addition to the national security loads it raises for the Pentagon and the cargo it carries to the space station for NASA.

He is planning two more flights of the Falcon Heavy rocket, the most powerful in operation today. Last year he flew for the first time carrying a Tesla Roadster on a journey to Mars.

After learning the art of recovering the first stages of missiles, which had traditionally been thrown into the ocean, SpaceX is working to capture another part of its rockets: the nose cone or the fairing. In 2017, Musk said that they cost about $ 6 million each.

"At some point, we are arguing," Should we try to get it back or not? & # 39; " He said at a press conference. "It's like," Guys, imagine you have $ 6 million in cash in a palette that flies in the air, and you're going to destroy it in the ocean. Yup. Yes, you would do it. "

The company uses a boat with a giant net affixed to it, forming a giant glove … During a recent test, it became quite close

Space tourism

Last month, Virgin Galactic hit a long-term goal elusive when two pilots flew over its space plane more than 50 miles in height, barely exceeding what many consider to be the edge of space.The pilots, CJ Sturckow, a former NASA astronaut who flew on the space shuttle four times, and Mark "Forger" Stucky, a former Air Force test pilot who piloted the SR-71 Blackbird, should receive the wings of the astronaut during a ceremony in Washington, from the Department of Administration. Aviation Federal, in the near future

Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin, said he hopes to fly in 2019 and then send ticket holders from Spaceport America, the futuristic facility that intends to operate in the Nuo Mexico.

If everything goes according to plan, up to six passengers will reach the edge of the space, loose and float around the cabin for a few minutes while observing the Earth from above.

Blue Origin, the space company founded by Jeffrey P. Bezos, also provides a key milestone this year: its first flights over the limit of space with test pilots. (Bezos is the owner of the Washington Post.) He said he would like to fly customers this year as well.

Those passengers would have "marveled at the weightless freedom and lost themselves in breathtaking views through the largest windows in the history of space". [19659033] The company has not named a price or fixed final dates, and flew its New Shepard rocket only twice a year.

Space Launch System / Orion

While the huge missile that NASA is building is not scheduled to start for 2019, the Orion spacecraft is expected to reach a key milestone: the its emergency stop system. After years of delays and cost overruns, NASA hopes the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft can finally fly together by 2020.

But many think the first flight will slip again, and a government watchdog he recently painted a poor image of rocket development. In a pungent relationship, the NASA general inspector found that the cost of the program could reach $ 9 billion.

Despite criticism, NASA supported the program, saying it is crucial that the agency reach the moon.

Launchers and satellites

The year 2019 could also fall as the year of the small launch vehicle. While SpaceX and others are focused on building powerful and powerful missiles, some companies have developed much smaller launchers.

They are designed to meet the needs of a revolution in satellite technology that has reduced their size to that of a shoebox in some cases. The small satellites do not need huge and expensive missiles, hence the boom of companies competing to build small launchers.

Rocket Lab, a company based in New Zealand and California, is at the forefront. It was launched three times last year and CEO Peter Beck said in an email that "2019 will be even bigger". The company is planning to launch on a monthly basis and will eventually begin operations from the Wallops Flight Facility at Virginia's Eastern Shore. [19659042] Virgin Orbit, another of Branson's companies, plans its first in-orbit flight this year.

And Vector is also planning its first launch in orbit this year. If this happened, he hopes to fly a handful several times. The small satellite industry is at the point where the personal computer was "in 1987, where it is about to explode," said Jim Cantrell, co-founder and CEO of the company.

OneWeb is an agreement. The company, which is supported by Virgin, Airbus, Qualcomm and others, plans to launch a constellation of satellites in low Earth orbit that will broadcast the Internet to remote regions of the world. Next month plans to launch its first satellite patch on a rocket produced by Arianespace, the French rocket manufacturer.

SpaceX is also entering the small world of satellites. They are raising $ 500 million to create a constellation of satellites called Starlinks that could broadcast on the Internet around the world.

The last year obtained approval from the Federal Communications Commission to host up to 12,000 satellites. But others have warned that putting so many spacecraft in orbit would have to face immense technical and regulatory challenges.

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