Soyuz and SpaceX are both well-known spacecraft programs, with a lot of hype surrounding them. Recently, Soyuz launched its newest rocket, after a failed October 11, 2018 rocket launch. Meanwhile, SpaceX is gearing up to launch its Falcon 9 rocket.
Soyuz vs. SpaceX
For your reading pleasure, let’s look at the backgrounds of the two biggest space programs.
Soyuz is a series of spacecraft programs that was designed by Korolev Design Bureau for the Soviet space program. Started in the 1960s, it still remains in service today and is associated with Russia.
In contrast, SpaceX, which is the dba name for Space Exploration Technologies Corp., is a company that was founded in 2002. Unlike Soyuz, SpaceX is a private program that is headquartered in California and headed by the notorious CEO Elon Musk. Musk is a South-African born gentleman who holds citizenship for South Africa, Canada, and the U.S. He is also the founder and lead designer for SpaceX.
Both companies have dominated space news recently and have had strings of accidents.
Soyuz has a history of recent accidents. On October 15, 2002, Soyuz U launch of Photon-M satellite fell and exploded 29 seconds after lift-off, killing one person and injuring eight. There was another rocket failure on June 21, 2005, which involved the second and third stages of the rocket parts crashing in Siberia. On August 24, 2011, a Soyuz U rocket that was carrying cargo to the ISS crashed and failed to reach orbit. Then, on December 23, 2011, a Soyuz 2.1b failed because of an anomaly in the third stage. On October 11, 2018, the Soyuz MS-10 mission to the ISS failed to reach orbit due to an issue with the main booster. The two crewmembers landed safely.
SpaceX has also had recent failures. On March 24, 2006, the first SpaceX launch failed 33 seconds after lifting off, due to a rusty nut. SpaceX’s second attempt on March 20, 2007, failed, as the engines shut down prematurely. During another attempt on August 2, 2008, two of SpaceX’s rocket stages separated and collided. On June 28, 2015, SpaceX’s rocket vaporized after launch, which meant failure for this mission (which included two payloads for NASA destined for the ISS). Another failure occurred on September 1, 2016, when SpaceX lost a rocket before launch, during testing.
Spacecraft to Send Humans to the ISS
Soyuz is the only vehicle that is currently allowed to send humans to the International Space Station (ISS).
However, NASA is working with SpaceX to develop spacecraft that is capable of transporting humans as well.
Fun fact: It just so happens that a day after the 2008 crash, SpaceX was saved from collapse by billionaire Peter Thiel. Elon Musk and Peter Thiel are both regarded as co-founders of PayPal.
To us, it seems as if although Soyuz is the incumbent spacecraft for the ISS, SpaceX has not run out of fuel to achieve its dreams. Which spacecraft, do you think, will be the dominant vehicle to carry humans to the ISS?