Last month’s launch explosion of a SpaceX rocket carrying supplies to the International Space Station will be at the forefront of a meeting Friday of the U.S. House Science, Space and Technology Committee in Washington.
The hearing will examine how recent commercial launch failures could affect the ability of the ISS to continue to operate and receive supplies. The hearing is not expected to focus on what caused the SpaceX mishap.
“The International Space Station (ISS) is a crucial part of our nation’s space program and its success is directly tied to operations at NASA Johnson Space Center in my district,” said U.S. Rep. Brian Babin (R-Deer Park), who chairs the House Subcommittee on Space. “We must take seriously the on-time, safe, and reliable supply of (the space station).”
On June 26, the unmanned SpaceX rocket carrying supplies to the space station broke apart shortly after liftoff. It was a severe blow to NASA, the third cargo mission to fail in eight months. More than 5,200 pounds of space station cargo were on board, including the first docking port designed for future commercial crew capsules, a new spacesuit and a water filtration system.
In April, a Russian cargo ship spun out of control and burned up upon re-entry. And last October, an Orbital Sciences Corp. capsule was destroyed in a launch accident in Virginia. SpaceX and Orbital Sciences have NASA contracts to ship cargo.
In some welcome news, a Russian cargo ship on Sunday successfully took a load of cargo and supplies to ISS, the first supplies that the space station had received since April 14.
These are difficult times for the commercial space industry as a whole. Last November, a Virgin Galactic LLC rocket ship broke apart miles above the earth, killing one pilot and seriously injuring another.
Despite the setbacks, it’s vital to continue the efforts to resupply ISS, said Bob Mitchell, president of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership.
“America needs to continue to make that investment in the future,” he said. “It’s a very tough, very difficult business, almost with built-in failures. The commercial space industry is probably one of the most difficult things in the world to do.”
Babin agreed, saying that “space endeavors have always been extremely difficult, but they are well worth the investment of America? s time and resources.”
The Johnson Space Center is home to Christopher C. Kraft Jr. Mission Control Center, which coordinates and monitors all human spaceflight for the United States.
It also directs all space shuttle missions and activities aboard ISS.