Space commercialization gathers pace

Space commercialization gathers pace

03.03.16

Rapid technological development has encouraged scientists to make new breakthroughs. Nowadays an interesting industry, which is capable of changing human lives, is starting to evolve, that is space exploration. But space exploration or extraterrestrial life search are not the main goals. What people are interested in most of all is generation of profit. 

Business and space have become integral notions. Demand for regular and cheap space flights, space tourism, asteroid mining and even Mars colonization has given rise to emergence of private space companies: Blue Origin, SpaceX and Virgin Galactic.

It’s an important milestone for humanity, as far as after privatization of space research segment companies won’t need any financial support from the state. According to Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, the process of space exploration will speed up afterwards, as governments are risk-averse when it comes to space industry and allocation of funds. Sometimes it takes several years to test and check the equipment. Of course, it does not mean that the equipment check shouldn’t be performed before space launch. But thanks to private investments and therefore space industry budget increase, this process can be sped up through additional staff and development of more precise maintenance support. 

Private-space-achievements-and-industry-leaders

Private space: achievements and industry leaders

As already mentioned above, there are only 3 commercial space companies in the world. We will try to investigate the goals and advances of each of them.

Blue Origin, founder – Jeff Bezos

Blue Origin – is a pioneer in space commercialization. It was founded in 2000 by entrepreneur Jeff Bezos. It should be noted that it’s one of the leading companies in terms of volumes, as far as it has its own space base and plants with complete cycle of assembling and preparation of equipment for launching, and it occupies an area of around 668 square kilometers. 

Blue-Origin-founder-Jeff-Bezos

But unfortunately, the significant size of company doesn’t mean that it actively participates in commercial development of space. It has only one completed and successful project – New Shepard. This vehicle, named after Alan Shepard, is aimed to take tourists into space in a special capsule.  Besides that it is reusable, which cuts down expenses on developing expendable launch vehicles.  They have managed to vertically land the first stage of New Shepard, but it isn’t intended for orbital missions. Thus, it cannot be called a stupendous achievement for humanity.

SpaceX, founder – Elon Musk

Musk founded this company in 2002, but it has already made a substantial breakthrough in space exploration. SpaceX  has a lot of goals, and all of them are daunting. Elon Musk outlines two main tasks for the nearest future - to reduce the price of near-Earth space flights and to colonize Mars. 

SpaceX-founder-Elon-Musk

The second goal amazes with its ingenuity, but there is nothing impossible for SpaceX. This company has its own rocket plant and unique developments of rocket propulsion units. The company is confidently heading in the direction of space exploration. It has already created a missile family of reusable rockets Falcon, one of which was landed vertically. And moreover it has made an orbital flight! It allowed placing a commercial communications satellite Orbcomm-G2 into orbit.

There is not much information on Mars colonization, but it’s only a matter of time.

Virgin Galactic, founder – Richard Branson

 

Virgin-Galactic-founder-Richard-Branson

Virgin Galactic was founded in 2004, and since that time its main goal is to develop space tourism industry. Branson began to collaborate with Tier One, which had a license for SpaceShip One. This spaceship definitely allowed experiencing the feeling of space flight. But it’s difficult to call it space tourism. That’s why Virgin Galactic has developed another project – Spaceship Two. It has made a successful flight recently, managing to go beyond the Karman line. But it has nothing to do with orbital flights yet. 

How people influence space commercialization?

The main goal of space commercialization is to develop projects and make discoveries that will be able to meet demands of the whole mankind in the future.

The question arises as to where private space companies take money on researches and development of spaceships. 

How-people-influence-space-commercialization

The answer is quite simple: people pay for it all themselves. For example, once satellite navigation was established using Hubble Space Telescope (NASA and ESA) and applied on Earth, it immediately paid for itself. People actively began to use route planning applications, electronic maps and many other things!

SpaceX has decided to keep pace with space industry leaders and opened its own commercial satellite production plant.  In the future it will allow making mobile service and navigation cheaper and more available for everyone. And demand among consumers will provide an opportunity to cover outlay and invest in new space researches.

Many private space companies are seriously considering the possibility of implementing innovations and technological solutions, earlier used solely for space exploration, in manufacturing industries. For instance, many of them are discussing the usage of augmented reality in healthcare, engineering, drilling and other industries. 

What awaits space in the future?

Several decades separate us from achieving the level of space technology development, depicted in science fiction. But it’s safe to say that due to development of commercial space technologies it has become possible. 

What-awaits-space-in-the-future

Our activities on Earth lead to irreversible changes: natural resource depletion, environmental problems, overpopulation, famine, to name only a few. That’s why it’s a matter of priority to develop technological capabilities for space exploration and to search for valuable resources. More and more habitable planets are being revealed, engineers are developing spaceships that will be able to perform commercial flights between planets, and expenses on rocket launches are being reduced. There is a lack of state financing of space projects, so the tendency of space commercialization is growing. And it’s not that bad as it can seem at first sight. After all it is private space companies that clear the path towards our “cosmic future”.

There are lots of ideas for upcoming discoveries. Who knows, perhaps the first settlement on Mars will appear in several years, and afterwards Spaceship Two will bring the first tourists to the Red Planet!  

Ekaterina Tkachenko

Ekaterina Tkachenko

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