How does SpaceX work financially

SpaceX and NASA start a new space chapter with Crew Dragon

In the early morning hours of November 16 of our time, a new group of astronauts with the Crew Dragon space capsule set off for the International Space Station and reached it after a 27-hour flight. The start was delayed by a day due to bad weather, but otherwise went according to plan.

The team is expected to spend a total of six months on the space station. This is the second use of the capsule, which is manufactured by the US company SpaceX. The mission, in which people were brought to the ISS in a commercial spacecraft for the first time, is of great importance for the future development of space travel.

The first successful Crew Dragon launch at the end of May was still considered a test flight. With the second flight, a new chapter in American space travel was to begin. With Crew Dragon, NASA officially certified a new spacecraft for the first time since the space shuttle almost 40 years ago. With its use, she hopes for a leap into manned space travel, in which flights can be carried out with "routine and regularity".

Crew Dragon offers more space than other capsules

One of the most significant developments is that the space capsule offers space for four astronauts at the same time to fly into space. The mission was manned by two male US astronauts, one US austronaut and one Japanese astronaut. The Russian Soyuz capsules, which had previously been used to regularly bring personnel to the ISS, can accommodate a maximum of three people on board, like the Apollo spacecraft of the 1960s and 1970s.

Jim Bridenstine, NASA's administrator, pointed out that after this first "regular" flight of the Crew Dragon capsule, one would definitely no longer be dependent on the opportunity to fly in the Russian capsules. This is not only a financial relief for NASA, but is also considered a historic new beginning. Because with the American-made Crew Dragon, an American capsule with American passengers is taking off from American soil for the first time in almost ten years.

NASA relies on private companies

After the end of the space shuttles, which were simply too complex, too expensive and, after two tragic accidents, too unsafe, NASA decided to commission private companies to develop transport systems and then to purchase these transport services. The space agency pays per launch and the companies can offer their services to others. NASA had previously invested a lot of money in this, by signing contracts with SpaceX worth more than $ 3.1 billion or with Boeing at over $ 5 billion.

Competition should drive prices down.

If everything goes well, SpaceX and the company's founder Elon Musk will have achieved quite a head start. Big competitor Boeing is a long way behind with its Starliner capsule. During the first test flight of the Starliner in December 2019, the unmanned capsule did not reach the ISS, which meant a severe setback. Now Boeing reports that they have the problems under control.

The space capsule is scheduled to start again in late 2020 or early 2021. If that works, there will be exactly the kind of competition that NASA wanted to create from the start. The prices per start should then drop significantly. The US is currently paying around $ 80 million for a seat in the Soyuz capsule, the Crew-Dragon is talking about $ 50 to 60 million, and when Boeing comes into play, it should be even cheaper.

According to SpaceX's plan, things should now continue in rapid succession. The company says it plans to organize a total of seven manned or cargo missions for NASA over the next 15 months. One speaks of a constant presence of the SpaceX capsules from December. Therefore, the ISS, on which people have been living continuously for 20 years, will probably serve as a contact point for space capsules for a while longer.

SpaceX plans flights to the moon and Mars

For Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, the Crew-Dragon project is probably just a milestone. Basically, he wants to go much further into space. The first tests in the “Starship” project are currently being carried out. A unique rocket is planned, over 120 meters high, 5000 tons in weight, with space for up to 100 astronauts.

The Starship rocket, says Musk, will contribute to the long-term survival of mankind with flights to the moon and Mars if the earth becomes uninhabitable. Even if the Crew Dragon flights to the ISS will soon become "routine", as one hopes, headlines about SpaceX can still be expected in the next few years.