The new space race
Space tourism will be a driver for innovation, cost-reduction and initial profits, but what most space industry companies are really interested in what happens next. That includes mining the Moon and asteroids for precious resources lacking on Earth, and generally building infrastructure in space to bring the cost down of doing business in space.
This is about so much more than the rich elite going on sub-orbital trips; this is about man reaching out to space for new sources of energy so human civilisation can continue to flourish. This is about survival. The next 12 months or so will see some key steps taken that will take the space industry from a potential new growth area to a bona fide boomtown.
1. Space X tests it Falcon Heavy
Able to lift 54 metric tons into orbit, the Falcon Heavy will launch from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Its two reusable side boosters will then attempt to land simultaneously just down the coast at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, after which the main booster will attempt to land on a barge as the spacecraft heads for orbit. It’s going to be awesome – and one day it’s going to Mars.
2. NASA flies its Orion capsule around the Moon
However, decisions have been put back and now EM-1 doesn’t look like it will take place until 2019. The first crewed mission in the Orion spacecraft is planned for the early 2020s.
3. Boeing tests its CST-100 Starliner
It spacecraft is designed to take five astronauts comfortably (and even has Wi-Fi), and August 2018 should see an un-crewed CST-100 launch atop an Atlas V rocket, a use-once ‘expendable launch vehicle’ from United Launch Alliance (a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin). The first crewed test flight of the spacecraft could take place in early 2019.
4. SpaceX tests its Crew Dragon
A fully autonomous spacecraft that can controlled by its astronauts and by SpaceX mission control, Crew Dragon is scheduled to be tested in 2018. Musk may be obsessed with Mars, but the bedrock of SpaceX’s business is going to be low Earth orbit for decades to come.
5. Blue Origin opens its rocket factory
Blue Origin is now constructing a rocket manufacturing facility at Exploration Park, Cape Canaveral, just a few miles from Kennedy Space Center. Here it plans to assemble the company’s massive New Glenn heavy-lift reusable rocket.
It won’t fly until 2020, but the two-stage version will lift 45 tons to low Earth orbit and 13 tons to geostationary transfer orbit – and there’s also a three-stage version in the works.
6. Virgin Galactic finally takes tourists to space
Though the space industry has far bigger goals than taking tourists to space, it is going to be a big revenue-generator, not just from the passengers but from the satellites most flights will also carry. So when Virgin Galactic finally takes six people paying $250,000 each, and two pilots, just above Earth’s atmosphere – as the company plans to do during 2018 – the entire space industry will undoubtedly experience a surge in self-belief.
7. The Google Lunar X Prize deadline looms
Will anyone succeed? India is one of the countries in the running with TeamIndus, with Japan’s HAKUTO, Israel’s SpaceIL, the USA’s Moon Express, and the international team Synergy Moon also in the running. For Moon Express, it’s a first step to starting a lunar mining operation.
8. Tiangong-1 comes crashing back to Earth
Tiangong-1 has been in a decaying, uncontrolled orbit for over a year, and will fall to Earth by April 2018 at the very latest, and possibly at the turn of the year. Now that’s going to be some shooting star.
9. China heads for the Moon’s far side
China recently joined the heavy-lift vehicle race with its Long March 5 (CZ-5) rocket (though its maiden flight in July 2017 was a failure), and also wants to send a rover to Mars by 2020.
10. India goes for the Moon’s south pole
A lunar orbiter, lander and rover, Chandrayaan-2 will land near the Moon’s south pole and study lunar dust, which could be a major hazard for potential permanent lunar bases.
social experiment by Livio Acerbo #greengroundit from http://www.techradar.com/news/10-events-that-will-shape-the-new-space-race