In 1955, the Soviet Union and the USA competed to be the most dominant nation in space flight technology. Dubbed the ‘Space Race’ the rivalry brought with it advancements in technology and resulted in one of the most defining moments in history; the moon landing in July 1969.
In 2004, space exploration was made commercially legal and today in 2018 space is no longer a government lead frontier. Businesses with money to invest are jumping at the chance to innovate in the sector and push the boundaries of spaceflight.
Elon Musk, CEO of both Tesla and SPACEX is a figurehead at the forefront of the development of new spaceflight technology. In recent news, SPACEX launched a Tesla Roadster into space to test the capabilities of its Falcon Heavy rocket.
SPACEX has set itself some ambitious goals, one of which is to send their first cargo mission to Mars in 2022 with the intention to confirm the habitability of the planet and lay the foundations for life-supporting infrastructure. A second mission targeted for 2024 will then focus on building a propellant depot and begin the preparations for future crew flights. Musk’s ultimate vision is the colonisation of Mars, his estimation is that in roughly 40 to 100 years there will be a population of 1 million on the red planet.
“You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great- and that’s what being a spacefaring civilization is all about. It’s about believing in the future and thinking that the future will be better than the past. And I can’t think of anything more exciting than going out there and being among the stars.”
– Elon Musk, CEO of SPACEX
Orbital Sciences, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are all making significant leaps into commercialising spaceflight. Most recently Blue Origin’s Shepard 2.0 booster has had successful test flights and aims to bring commercial spaceflight to tourists as soon as the end of this year.
The Blue Origin New Shepard 2.0 features six observation windows which are the largest to be constructed on a spacecraft. The reusable rocket was also the first of its kind to make a successful vertical landing in 2015 although the more famous SPACEX falcon 9 booster is more widely known for this feature.
Virgin Galactic has seen significant delays in getting its commercial offering off the ground. Their SpaceShipTwo, meant to launch its first commercial flights in 2013, has seen delays. The positive test flight results in 2017 show signs of success and Virgin Galactic are now hopeful of a launch this year.
SPACEX is planning to phase out all of its rockets including the just-launched Falcon Heavy, replacing them with the BFR ‘Big F***ing Rocket’. When stacked together, the BFR rocket and spaceship will stand 348 feet high and be the most powerful spacecraft ever built. The spaceship will be capable of transporting 100 people to Mars whilst being reusable for multiple missions.
There is a contagious optimism from the industry that shows promise for what the future of civilisation may be. However, it’s clear that at present we’re not ready to take the leaps required just yet. Spaceflight is edging ever closer to reality. The question is no longer if, but when? Hopefully we’ll see some success within next 12 months.
CEO: Elon Musk
CEO: Jeff Bezos
Rocket: Sheperd 2.0
Mission: Space Tours
CEO: Richard Branson
Mission: Suborbital Flights