Private companies are opening the way to a new golden age of space travel by providing cheap and profitable solutions.
According to the publication Sci-Tech Today, at the 32nd Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo., were discussed the new perspectives provided by a couple of revolutionary rocket landings by SpaceX and Blue Origin. Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com Inc. Chief Executive who also heads private space company Blue Origin, declared that the advent of reusable rockets is opening the door to an explosion of commercial space activity.
Bezos compared this phenomenon to the national highway system and the Internet. Private ambitious projects to develop reusable rockets are part of a new space race to cut launch costs.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden explained the benefits of flying to the Red Planet using launch vehicles provided by Hawthorne-based SpaceX. The private space company already offers launch rockets costing just half the price of its competitors' offers. The challenge coming from Space X and other upstart space companies would only ramp up by adding reusable rockets to the mix.
The website fool.com reports that according to SpaceX's published list of prices, launching Falcon 9 currently costs in average $61.2 million. That's already half the best price charged by Lockheed Martin and Boeing for a launch over at United Launch Alliance.
Longtime launch provider United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of aerospace giants Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co. feels already "threatened," according to John Logsdon, professor emeritus at George Washington University's Space Policy Institute. , Such companies are not so fast on innovation, since they have been used to a non-competitive situation.
Another drive for innovation is a competition to replace the Russian RD-180 rocket engines used since the year 2000 to launch U.S. government and commercial satellites. The leading candidate to replace the Russian engine is the BE-4 engine powered by liquefied natural gas.
The BE-4 is designed by Blue Origin to produce 550,000 pounds of thrust. The engine could fly as early as 2019. Blue Origin has said that liquefied natural gas' low cost and wide availability would enable an "extended engine development test program."