Here’s something a researcher told me in a recent interview with some asteroid miners: when it comes to newspace, failure is an option. It has to be. If we restrict ourselves as a species only to tasks with super high confidence rates, the rate of progress will slow to a crawl. This failure is an option theme may lead in my upcoming post on Planetary Resources. For now, SpaceX is doing marvelously:
(The Register) — Having launched its new Dragon spacecraft on Tuesday – on only its second flight – SpaceX is now seeking to bring the ship to a docking with the International Space Station on Friday. Many boxes must be ticked before this can happen, however: but today the first was checked off as the Dragon made a close pass within 1.5 miles of the station, and ‘nauts aboard the orbiting outpost confirmed that their remote-control console was able to command the new ship. This was done by ordering the Dragon to illuminate its strobe lights as it flew by the Station.
In fact the station’s crew – the Dragon tests were handled by André Kuipers of the ESA and NASA’s Don Pettit – couldn’t see that the lights were on owing to bright sunlight illuminating the still quite distant Dragon. However telemetry confirmed that the capsule had received the radio command from the ISS and activated its lights, and viewers of NASA TV were treated to video of the Dragon as it gradually overhauled the station from beneath, passing above South Africa and the Indian Ocean as it did so.
BTW, last week a SpaceX Falcon 9 had to be shut down after fuel had already been injected into one of the main Merlin engines when a sensor detected an unhealthy pressure build up. That alone was a pretty impressive. What’s even more amazing is engineers pulled that cowling open, got down inside there and replaced some critical valves in the space of a few hours. The rocket had to wait a couple of days for another launch window, but it could have theoretically been turned around the same day.