May 31, 2020.
“People who end up as ‘first’ don’t actually set out to be first. They set out to do something they love.” – Condoleezza Rice
As innovators and champions know, being first is a singular experience: there can only be one, and it is truly remarkable. The impact of Saturday’s successful launch of the first crewed spacecraft by a private company will be felt in sweeping ways throughout both the business and science & technology communities. SpaceX, in partnership with NASA, has demonstrated with Crew Dragon Demo-2 what has previously only been achieved by three nations– the technological capability to safely send human beings into orbit. And today has brought even more great news: NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken have safely docked with the International Space Station.
SpaceX has already followed a spectacular trajectory even before this unprecedented liftoff. They have achieved other important firsts, including the first propulsive landing and first reuse of an orbital rocket. After developing the first privately funded liquid-propellant rocket to reach orbit, they became the first private company to successfully launch, orbit, and recover a spacecraft, deliver a spacecraft to the space station, and inject an object into orbit around the sun. SpaceX has flown 20 NASA-contracted resupply missions to the space station, and in January became the world’s largest commercial satellite constellation operator with its Starlink project. And, just last month NASA announced the selection of Blue Origin, Dynetics, and SpaceX to develop the human landers that will carry astronauts to the Moon in 2024. Their achievements are impressive, and we commend them wholeheartedly.
NASA continues to set the benchmark for innovation as a leader and a partner. The agency’s first strategic objective for exploration is among its most compelling: “Lay the foundation for America to maintain a constant human presence in low Earth orbit enabled by a commercial market.” What we are now seeing the results of NASA’s bold and novel change in approach that is enabling the creation of a new space-based economy for the future. This is what dynamic organizations do, they evolve by continuously adapting and improving. SpaceX was given the opportunity to adapt their own technology development processes with insights NASA experienced and perfected during Apollo and the Space Shuttle. Advancing these methods in partnership is paving the way to the Moon and Mars.
The success of Crew Dragon Demo-2 makes me even more excited about the forward-looking approaches to technology development and acquisition that are the cornerstone of Artemis, which will serve as our proving ground for the Red Planet, bear the torch for many thousands of people working in the space program, and carry the aspirations of untold millions everywhere. For those of us supporting Stellar Solution’s Civil Programs, this achievement is particularly galvanizing as we look ahead.
Beyond the excitement of this weekend, these milestones are critical to organizations like ours that are part of an extensive, multilayered community of government agencies and industry partners collectively working to achieve sustainable human exploration with SLS/Orion, Gateway, Human Landers and more. Stellar Solutions’ employee-focused vision, agile strategic planning, and relentless focus on customer needs are ways we embrace a mindset of collaboration and innovation through our mission and values. So, now we celebrate, knowing that the challenge continues tomorrow!
About the author: Amy Chaput is Stellar Solutions’ Vice President for Civil Programs