Following last Saturday’s momentous SpaceX launch, when the Crew Dragon space vessel rocketed out of earth’s atmosphere and into orbit, many wonder what’s next for the ground-breaking aerospace company.
SpaceX has several projects underway beside getting Crew Dragon designated as an operational vehicle, namely the Starlink project and the Starship project. Let’s take a look at what’s in the works.
Getting Crew Dragon Designated
The short term focus for SpaceX is waiting for NASA to officially name Crew Dragon “operational.” Along with the spacecraft’s successful launch and docking at the International Space Station (ISS) last Saturday, there remain weeks of safety reviews ahead.
Before NASA can say the Crew Dragon mission was a full success, the two-person crew made up of Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley must return to Earth safely. If there are structural or mechanical issues upon re-entry, the spacecraft will not be given a perfect score. The astronauts are currently set to remain in space for up to 110 days.
Still, the trip has thus far gone off without a hitch, with a perfect launch and a perfect docking. “The thing that really stood out to both of us – and we mentioned it as soon as we docked – is that we didn’t even feel the docking,” Mission Commander Hurley said of their trip to the ISS. “It was just so smooth, and then we were docked. In the shuttle, you felt a little bit of a jolt.”
Once Crew Dragon is given the coveted categorization, a second Crew Dragon spacecraft will be assessed for a mission. The next mission, called Crew-1, will be carrying astronauts are Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins, Shannon Walker, and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi. NASA hopes to launch Crew-1 in August.
The Starlink Constellation
Though one might think SpaceX has its hands full with the current mission, the company is also continuing to work on the Starlink project, a network of ultimately 12,000 satellites created and launched by SpaceX that will provide high-speed internet to people all over the globe, particularly in remote areas. SpaceX is planning to launch the eighth round of Starlink satellites this Wednesday, to add to the 422. The same rocket that took Crew Dragon out of the atmosphere, Falcon 9, will carry the next pieces in the Starlink constellation.
The Starship Project
SpaceX is also hoping that the Starlink project will help bankroll SpaceX’s next big goal: Starship.
As otherworldly as it sounds, SpaceX’s founding mission is to establish a colony on Mars. In a tweet from Sunday night, the aerospace company claimed that SpaceX Starship SN4 had passed the cryogenic pressure test required for travel to the moon and Mars, moving them one step closer to their interplanetary goals.
Directly following Saturday’s launch, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said, “this is, hopefully, the first step on a journey towards civilization on Mars.”