Lots of fun news in the past week about the wide open frontier of space exploration. Three huge developments are:
- SpaceX landed a contract for a manned flight,
- Blue Origin successfully recovered a first stage, and
- Japan successfully launched a commercial satellite.
What I describe in this post is the reason I am so wildly optimistic about the future. The astounding progress here stands in stark contrast to the foolishness and ridiculousness we see dominate the news every hour of every day.
The absolute best news:
11/24 – New York Post – The new space race is a private-sector affair – Editorial celebrates Blue Origin successfully recovering a first stage, SpaceX has already flown several resupply missions to the International Space Station, and Boeing & Virgin Galactic are also in the game.
The more competitors, the better.
First stages can be recovered after launch:
11/23 – Blue Origin – Historic Rocket Landing – Blue Origin, with Jeff Bezos as the driving funder, successfully recovered a first stage rocket. That is a big deal.
A large portion of the cost of a rocket launch is the first stage itself. Being able to recover and then reuse the first stage will radically reduce the cost of space travel.
With justifiable pride-in-accomplishment, the article signed by Jeff Bezos says:
Rockets have always been expendable. Not anymore. Now safely tucked away at our launch site in West Texas is the rarest of beasts, a used rocket.
This flight validates our vehicle architecture and design.
If you have read this far in my post, you really gotta’ check out the video in that article. Extremely cool.
Other fantastic news:
11/20 – City News Service at Daily Bulletin – Hawthorne-based SpaceX lands NASA contract for first manned flight – SpaceX has been sending unmanned supply ships to the International Space Station. They just received a contract from NASA for a manned flight.
Boeing has also received a contract, back in May. Both companies will need to clear technical approvals and get funding from Congress. Flights are not expected until late 2017.
I fervently hope both of them succeed. Two providers creates redundant capacity and encourages competition. Fantastic!
Cost for both SpaceX and Boeing flights are expected to be substantially less than the $70M the U.S. is paying Russia for each seat on their rockets.
More players step to the plate:
11/24 – Channel News Asia – Japan Rocket Launches its First Commercial Satellite – the Japan Space Exploration Agency successfully launched a commercial telecommunications satellite into orbit. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries built the rocket. The vehicle is the H-IIA rocket.
11/24 – Behind the Black – Japan launches its First Commercial payload – Article, which pointed me to the previous discussion, explains JAXA is the Japanese equivalent of NASA. Apparently this is an extraordinarily expensive delivery vehicle. Unclear whether it could become economically competitive.
The wonderful news is another player is successfully in the launch game. Very cool. The more competition, the better.
On Twitter, Elon Musk first congratulated Blue Origin and then reminded us that SpaceX has successfully landed rockets. See USA Today’s article SpaceX’s Elon Musk goes ballistic over Jeff Bezos’ rocket feat.
SpaceX has not yet successfully recovered a booster after a live launch, but check out my previous posts:
- 4/30/13 – Successful test of rocket hovering and making soft landing
- 5/28/14 – More good stuff on the open frontiers – 5/28
The bragging is fine. Go for it. Both companies have major achievements that really are big deals.
The wonderful news is this will push both companies harder. Fantastic. A serious dose of serious competition will make them both far better than they would be otherwise.
One more view of the Blue Origin launch: