Let’s light this candle

13th June 2020

Last month a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying two veteran NASA astronauts, Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, lifted off for the International Space Station. It was the first crewed space flight from US soil in nine years and the first ever by a commercial company.

“Let’s light this candle,” were Hurley’s last words right before lift-off.

The reusable first booster stage of the SpaceX rocket separated cleanly about two and a half minutes after lift-off and landed upright on a floating barge off the Atlantic coast.

The launch is the first of American astronauts from US soil since the space shuttle program ended in 2011 and California-based SpaceX, founded by entrepreneur Elon Musk, is the first private company to send astronauts into space.

The mission, dubbed “Demo-2,” is the final test flight before NASA certifies SpaceX´s Crew Dragon capsule for regular crewed missions.

Behnken, 49, and Hurley, 53, former military test pilots who joined the US space agency in 2000, blasted off from Launch Pad 39A. The same launch pad was used by Neil Armstrong on Apollo 11´s landmark 1969 journey to the Moon, and NASA is seeking to revive excitement around human space exploration ahead of a planned return to Earth´s satellite and then Mars, while at the same time, saving money.

NASA has had to pay Russia for its Soyuz rockets to take US astronauts to space ever since the shuttle program ended.

The Crew Dragon mission is a defining moment for SpaceX, which Musk founded in 2002 with the goal of producing a lower-cost alternative to human spaceflight.

By 2012, it had become the first private company to dock a cargo capsule at the ISS, resupplying the station regularly ever since.

The US space agency paid more than $3 billion for SpaceX to design, build, test and operate its reusable Dragon capsule for six future space round-trips.

SpaceX conducted a successful test flight of Crew Dragon to the ISS in March 2019 with a sensor-laden mannequin on board named Ripley, after the character played by Sigourney Weaver in the “Alien” movies.

So with all this time, money and effort invested in researching and developing its rockets, SpaceX must have loads of patents right?

Wrong.

Musk has opted for a ‘trade secret’ strategy, and not filing patents, going so far as to claim that doing so would be farcical:

“We have essentially no patents in SpaceX. Our primary long-term competition is in China,” said Musk in the interview. “If we published patents, it would be farcical, because the Chinese would just use them as a recipe book.”

With striking similarities to the feelings of the F1 community, that we discussed a few months ago, there are no patents to add to this blog. So another cat picture is in order, enjoy:

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