It’s been over 20 years since SpaceX entered the international race to the stars. Since it began making spacecraft, the company has embraced using the latest technology to get ahead of its competitors.
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
These are some of the incredible pieces of tech SpaceX uses to make history and why they’re notable in humankind’s journey into the solar system.
Every rocket that has ever reached outer space used a multi-stage system to get there. One stage gets the rocket out of Earth’s atmosphere, then the second carries the astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) or the moon.
An interstage is a core component of multi-stage rockets. It connects both stages while housing the rocket’s engine. SpaceX uses an all-pneumatic stage separation system to test the hardware before launch and minimize space debris by reducing the physical shock of separation. Both functions are beneficial to furthering the safety and efficiency of space travel.
While you’re listening to a rocket launch countdown, powerful engines are already firing. They must create enough heat and force to get the massive rocket airborne. As the rocket lifts from the pad, pumps blast the area with cooling water to prevent the rocket or launchpad from melting.
reaches around 5,800° Fahrenheit and creates excessive sound energy. Water suppresses the noise while making liftoff safer for those in the rocket.
SpaceX has multiple families of engines, but most people know the Merlin engine as the most powerful model. The company’s rockets used nine Merlin engines to make its historic 2015 flight that landed after an orbital launch. They’re one of the most incredible pieces of tech SpaceX uses because they have the highest thrust-to-weight ratio, meaning they can lift the rocket more easily using fewer resources.
An astronaut can’t climb into a rocket and request that an AI program land itself on the moon, but AI is still a valuable tool in SpaceX rockets. The AI autopilot program assists astronauts in landing on the ISS to reduce the risk of human error.
While you can always feel like an astronaut by lighting your home with moon lamps or watching rocket launches with binoculars, you might also use AI technology with similar software that space explorers use during their adventures. Things like smart security systems or thermostats use parallel programming to make your life easier.
The ISS is a place where astronauts conduct science experiments. While they’re highly educated and well-trained, everyone can use a helping hand sometimes. SpaceX recently assisted by sending a CIMON robot on a 2018 flight.
When astronauts use the Crew Interactive Mobile Companion (CIMON), they can ask questions about their experiment and even watch it happen on the screen, so they can walk through various scenarios. The assistance makes accurate data collection easier so the most reliable information can return to mission control.
Shuttles and rockets have highly specialized software that alerts when it suspects something is wrong. Astronauts must make split-second decisions involving multi-step processes to verify if something happened and if they need to evacuate. It can take time they don’t have, especially since humans will always need a second to activate hand-eye coordination.
SpaceX uses an AI-powered emergency system that alerts the passengers if there’s something wrong with the rocket. When activated, the system ignites thruster engines to quickly separate astronauts from the rocket and propel them into space.
If something were actually wrong, the dangerous bottom stage would fall back to Earth, leaving the astronauts unharmed. AI doesn’t need hand-eye communication to activate emergency systems. Astronauts are a bit safer with technology that has their back in moments of crisis.
The latest SuperDraco engine from SpaceX is incredible for several reasons. Instead of using slower printing methods, the material requires direct metal laser sintering to manufacture faster and for less cost.
It also operates differently than the Merlin engine because it uses two non-cryogenic liquids — monomethyl hydrazine fuel and a nitrogen tetroxide oxidizer. When the two liquids come into contact, the engines ignite. The engines can restart multiple times without extensive effort, making rockets usable more than once.
People who love space exploration should know about the incredible pieces of tech used by SpaceX. They’re leading the way into the future of intergalactic travel by transforming what people already use with the latest advancements in aerospace technology. Additional growth and new developments will surely come as SpaceX continues its journey to Mars.
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