This week has been quite busy for those of us with a keen interest in space. NASA is currently putting on quite a show for the 40th anniversary of the Apollo launches (which I will dedicate a post to later) but also we’ve been privy to see not one but to launches. The first is the launch of shuttle mission STS-127:
The main focus of this mission is installing the last part of the Japanese section of the ISS (Kibo). It will allow the astronauts to perform experiments that are directly exposed to space which up until now they have had a limited capacity to do. There’s also a few housekeeping things like spare parts and extra batteries as well as a couple satellites. Whilst this isn’t as exciting as the last couple missions it does signify a big step forward in the capabilities of the station, which makes crazy talk like this a little disturbing:
After more than a decade of construction, it is nearing completion and finally has a full crew of six astronauts. The last components should be installed by the end of next year.
“In the first quarter of 2016, we’ll prep and de-orbit the spacecraft,” says NASA’s space station program manager, Michael T. Suffredini.
With another 5 more missions planned to complete the station somewhere in 2011 this would mean 5 years of a fully functioning space station before it’s plunged back to earth. With so much invested in the station from so many countries I can’t help but feel that this statement is a little short sited. Sure, NASA has footed most of the bill for most of the station but I’m sure most of the other countries would be looking to keep the station up there for a while longer. I’m sure as the time gets closer we’ll see more interest in keeping it up there, maybe even Bigelow wil take an interest.
The second, and probably most exciting, launch we’ve seen this week was SpaceX’s first successful launch of a private payload into space:
The payload launched was RazakSAT a Malaysian remote sensing satellite. It’s a great success for SpaceX and shows that they are capable of launching payloads with much less overhead then current companies. This bodes very well for their scheduled Falcon 9 test later this year and the private space industry as a whole. With Bigelow providing somewhere to go and SpaceX the means to get there we’ll soon be seeing the first fully privately funded space stations flown to by private companies, something back when Apollo was first conceived was still considered science fiction.
It’s been a great week for me personally as I’ve seen news reports of space peppered through the mainstream news. That says a lot coming from someone in Australia, considering that the Australian populace at large doesn’t have much of an active interest in space. With the culmination of the anniversary events for Apollo coming next week I’m hopeful that we’ll inspire many more people to take up a bigger interest in space, as did I a couple years ago.