Commercial Space – Part One

Yesterday I mentioned the SpaceX Falcon Heavy as my preferred launch vehicle for the Mars Rover mission.  I have been watching with increased interested the development of the commercial launch business as companies like SpaceX, Orbital and others progress towards supplying the Space Station and offering launch capabilities to the broader industry.

SpaceX

At the moment SpaceX have made the most progress with a new rocket but they have only had a few launches so how can we say that?

If you look at what they have achieved since they started in 2002 then it is hard not to be impressed.  They started off with the Falcon 1 which has lunched 5 times so far and while the first three mission ended in failure the last two where successful and put SpaceX on the map with the first privately funded liquid fueled rocket to reach orbit.

Since then the main focus has been on the creation of the Falcon 9 vehicle and the Dragon Space Capsule, again SpaceX has delivered so far, of the two Falcon 9 launches attempted so far both have been successful.  On the second SpaceX achieved another first by launching their Dragon space capsule and successfully returning to earth becoming the first commercial company to do it.

Early next year SpaceX will once again launch Dragon this time on a mission to the Space Station, this is the second test missions as part of the NASA Commercial Orbital Transport Services (COTS) program.  Once they have demonstrated the ability to successfully launch Dragon to the space station and dock they will then begin contracted deliveries to the Space Station.

Recently SpaceX have made two other announcements regarding the future of the Falcon Rockets.  First they announced the creation of the Falcon Heavy which will have the largest payload capacity of any rocket currently in use today.  Second they announced plans to start testing return to launch site abilities for the first and second stages of the rocket which if they can achieve it successfully will drastically reduce the cost of launching to space.

All in all I believe SpaceX has a great future and their success will only benefit the America Space industry and start to lower the costs of getting into space for everyone.

Tomorrow we continue with Orbital and take a look at their offering in the Commercial Space Arena.

Next Crew Heading to ISS

As most of you will know I am very passionate about space, some may not know that I am known to sit and watch the Space Station TV feed from Nasa for hours on end while working from home.

Last night Russia successfully launched Anton Shkaplerov, Anatoly Ivanishin and Dan Burbank, the next crew to ISS to begin an intensive week long handover before the current crew of Mike Fossum, Satoshi Furukawa and Sergei Volkov leave.

While the US is currently reliant on Russia to launch crew to the station we have to admire how well they handled the August launch failure of a Progress vehicle and how quickly they were able to get back to flight.  There are plenty of lesson we can learn from them, and building on the tremendous progress that has been made creating the Space Station in the first place.