Last year, the US Air Force sent a robotic spaceship into orbit and kept it there for seven months. No one outside the program knows why exactly it was up there, but part of the reason could be that they were testing a replacement vehicle for the space shuttle. It’s just speculation, so don’t go getting too excited just yet.
NASA is ready to move forward with the development of the Space Launch System — an advanced heavy-lift launch vehicle that will provide an entirely new national capability for human exploration beyond Earth’s orbit. The Space Launch System will give the nation a safe, affordable and sustainable means of reaching beyond our current limits and opening up new discoveries from the unique vantage point of space.
If anyone ever had any doubts that the private sector had what it takes to put out reliable, powerful and efficient space missions, SpaceX’s new rocket, the Falcon Heavy should cast all aspersions aside. The Falcon Heavy is more powerful than the Saturn rocket, or any other rocket invented by mankind and costs a third of what it takes to put a shuttle into orbit.
The rockets that we send people to space in are honestly, not that much different than the small hand-held rockets invented by the Chinese thousands of years ago. You take a tube, you fill it with fuel that is going to put off enough energy when burned to propel the rocket through the air. The only difference between then and now is that in the 20th century, we figured out how to make them big enough to put people in, with complicated navigational systems to make sure we get from point A to point B without turning into fireworks.