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Focus: GS-III Science and Technology

Why in news?

The SpaceX Dragon Capsule came down in the Gulf of Mexico with the crew, successfully completing its journey back to Earth from the International Space Station.


  • It was the first splashdown by U.S. astronauts in 45 years, with the first commercially built and operated spacecraft to carry people to and from orbit.
  • The return clears the way for another SpaceX crew launch as early as next month and possible tourist flights next year.

What is SpaceX?

  • Space Exploration Technologies Corp., trading as SpaceX, is an American aerospace manufacturer and space transportation services company.
  • It was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk with the goal of reducing space transportation costs to enable the colonization of Mars.
  • SpaceX has developed several launch vehicles, the Starlink satellite constellation, the Dragon cargo spacecraft, and flown humans to the International Space Station on Dragon 2.

SpaceX’s Achievements

  • The first privately funded liquid-propellant rocket to reach orbit (Falcon 1 in 2008).
  • The first private company to successfully launch, orbit, and recover a spacecraft (Dragon in 2010).
  • The first private company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station (Dragon in 2012).
  • The first reuse of an orbital rocket (Falcon 9 in 2017).
  • The first private company to send astronauts to the International Space Station (Dragon 2 in 2020). – Launching Humans into orbit is a feat achieved only by the US, Russia & China in the past.

International Space Station (ISS)

  • The International Space Station (ISS) is a modular space station (habitable artificial satellite) in low Earth orbit.
  • The ISS program is a multi-national collaborative project between five participating space agencies: NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada).
  • The ownership and use of the space station is established by intergovernmental treaties and agreements.
  • The ISS serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which scientific experiments are conducted in astrobiology, astronomy, meteorology, physics, and other fields.
  • It is the largest artificial object in space and the largest satellite in low Earth orbit, regularly visible to the naked eye from Earth’s surface.
  • The ISS is the ninth space station to be inhabited by crews, following the Soviet and later Russian Salyut, Almaz, and Mir stations as well as Skylab from the US.

Importance of Private Participation in in the Space sector for India

  • Space tourism is one among several opportunities that Indian businesses may be keen to explore. A policy framework to enable private participation in this sector, of course, would have to be formulated by the government.
  • Small satellite revolution is underway, globally, 17,000 small satellites are expected to be launched between 2020 and 2030. A strong private sector in space will help India to tap into this lucrative commercial space launch market.
  • Increasing space competitiveness:
  • Singapore is offering itself as a hub for space entrepreneurship based on its legal environment, availability of skilled manpower and equatorial location.
  • New Zealand is positioning itself as a location for private rocket launches.
  • China, too, has changed its rules to allow private commercial space activity.
  • ISRO has been a genuine global pioneer of aerospatial cost compression on several fronts. Cost-effectiveness has given the agency a distinct edge in the commercial arena of satellite launch services.

-Source: The Hindu, BBC News

November 2023