As NASA and SpaceX prep for Crew-2 launch, spaceflight remains far from routine

Progress in human spaceflight advancements is incremental, experts say

Dozens of Starlink internet constellation launches. SpaceX’s fail-fast-and-fix-fast philosophy embodied in wildly popular Starship test flights. Rovers touching down on foreign worlds, renewed plans to put humans on the moon, and an accelerating launch cadence.

All things space – and especially all things SpaceX – have increasingly dominated headlines in recent years, reports News 6 partner Florida Today. After all, the company did return the U.S. to human spaceflight status in 2020 with the first launch of astronauts from American soil since the space shuttle era. And its Falcon 9 rocket finished the year accounting for 80% of the launches from Florida.

The company’s next high-profile launch, slated for 6:11 a.m. on April 22, will take four astronauts to the International Space Station from Kennedy Space Center in a Crew Dragon capsule. The sixth-month Crew-2 mission will mark the company’s second fully operational ISS flight for NASA and third overall with humans aboard.

For Space Coast residents able to step outside and watch rockets tear through the sky, spaceflight might seem more routine than ever. And it’s not slowing down – the industry is inhaling billions of dollars in private and government investments, massive rocket factories like Blue Origin’s are on the rise, and several new rockets are expected to fly in the next year alone.

But crewed spaceflight makes “routine” a complicated word. Humans add countless factors to missions and their safety weighs heavily on industry leaders like Elon Musk, who has personally promised the children of astronauts his company will do everything in its power to ensure the safety of their parents.

An emergency abort scenario that sees the astronauts rapidly thrust away from the Falcon 9 rocket below them, for example, could not only endanger lives but also ripple out to ISS accessibility, launch cadence, and public perception of spaceflight. The latter is especially critical to the several companies vying to make space tourism accessible and safe.

Experts generally agree that technological progress, experience, and historical lessons make today’s crewed missions safer than ever. In the bigger picture, human spaceflight might not be “there” yet as far as being fully routine, but they say progress in this arena is expectedly incremental.

The advantage of cadence