NASA will install a “parking space” on the International Space Station (ISS) Friday so private companies, like Boeing and SpaceX, can dock with the station.
Astronauts will install adapters that allow commercial spacecraft to dock and give NASA less expensive options to resupply the station. Boeing and SpaceX plan to use the new “parking space” to dock spacecraft with the space station starting next year.
SpaceX has already successfully resupplied the ISS seven times. One SpaceX resupply mission in June of 2015 resulted in an explosion and a total loss of the spacecraft. The private company Orbital Sciences is also under contract with the space agency to resupply the ISS, but has also had failures.
Since the Space Shuttle was discontinued in 2011, NASA has had to pay Russia million to take its astronauts to the ISS.
SpaceX, Boeing and several other companies have made huge advancements in reusable rocketry in recent years, which has the potential to greatly lower the costs of getting into space. SpaceX’s President Gwynne Shotwell estimates reusing rockets could cause a 30 percent reduction in launch costs. A single launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket costs around $54 million, but that’s still cheaper than NASA’s Space Shuttle design, which costed more than $1.6 billion per launch.
Blue Origin, a private space company set up by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, successfully launched and recovered the first reusable rocket last November.
NASA hasn’t launched an astronaut into space for five years without Russian cooperation because President Barack Obama cut the agency’s spaceflight capability. Obama threatened to veto NASA’s attempts to build rockets, and tried to divert space exploration funding into global warming programs. Two senators even accused the Obama administration of leaking information to the press about the Mars programs.
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