Race to Space: The Commercial Space Age Has Begun

July 28

SpaceX was the first private company to take NASA astronauts into orbit, in this case towards the International Space Station (ISS) which travels around the Earth between 400 and 500 kilometers high.

It did so with its Dragon transport capsule carried to final orbit by a Falcon 9 rocket, all proprietary material, as well as the procedures and personnel for take-off and re-entry.

The launch not only solved the problem of bringing astronauts into low orbit, but opened the door to a new era in which private companies and state agencies will write the history of the space race.

Read on: Internet of Space Things: A Cyber-Physical System for Connected Applications in Space

SpaceX and Its Competitors

In addition to SpaceX, which pocketed a $ 2.6 billion contract for six of these human transports, there is Boeing, which certainly has experience. Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are other worthy contenders for the burgeoning commercial space market.

NASA Taking the Backseat

NASA—by leaving the field free to private companies—has effectively created a new industrial sector. The agency hopes that the lower cost of commercial flights will allow the agency to expand its exploration and space research efforts.

Private companies seem to take the lead in all plans to revisit the moon and eventually reach Mars. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, before launch, stressed that they are trying to build economically “sustainable” space exploration.

In 2014, NASA authorized SpaceX and Boeing to build launch vehicles that are able to transport humans to the station. Boeing is lagging behind its rival, with its first uncrewed mission scheduled for the end of July after fixing the problems with its Starliner capsule.

Keep reading: Satellite Internet and IoT Devices in Space

More Startups Enter the Race

The Texas startup Axiom Space, run by former NASA manager Suffredini has contracted with Space X to send four astronauts on the commercial missions. In addition, Space Adventures has signed a contract with Space X to transport tourists into space starting in 2022.

Both operations hinged on the success of the Dragon capsule. Putting human beings who are not government employees in orbit is seen as something that could help stimulate low-gravity production techniques.

The Staggering Numbers

Global space advocate Space Foundation, a non-profit, announced in its latest quarterly report that space investments totaled over $6 billion in Q3 2020 through acquisitions, buyouts, and private equity.

According to an analysis published by Quilty Analytics in The Space Report 2020 Q3, acquisitions and buyouts reached $3.3 billion in the third quarter, outpacing the 13 transactions and $265 million in disclosed value announced in Q2.

The space sector generated approximately $366 billion in revenue in 2019. These were mainly goods and services created in space for use on Earth. A key component of this economy includes communications via satellite and internet infrastructure, earth observation, and national security.

Despite being plagued by overcrowded markets and monopolistic competition due to a scarce natural resources, this economy is booming, and projections are optimistic about its future.

The picture is different for the space-for-space economy—goods produced in space for use in space such as space mining, which has hitherto struggled to take off. The privatization of space promises hope for this sector.

Read more: Introducing Satellite NB-IoT, or Connectivity Everywhere

Richard Branson Beats Bezos and Musk to Space

When Paul Allen and Larry Ellison tussled over who owned the biggest yacht in the world, we saw billionaire boys go eyeball-to-eyeball with their toys. Ellison built his 452ft rising Sun after Allen’s 416ft superyacht Octopus was commissioned, proving that size does matter.

A new billionaire battle is now underway—for space flights. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said he would pilot Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket to outer space come July 20. But Richard Branson upstaged Bezos and Musk by launching into space on July 11 in his Virgin Galactic VSS Unity spaceplane. Branson beat the two space-crazed billionaires into space, a challenge that marks the real beginning of space tourism. The sector is projected to expand in the next 20 years, with suborbital flight prices decreasing as more cost-cutting opportunities arise.

Johannes Beekman

About the author

After 25 years in engineering, Johannes Beekman founded IoT Marketing with the goal of helping companies bring wide-scale awareness to their inventions. He received a Master of Science in Physics degree from the Eindhoven University of Technology, and a Master in Business Administration degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and started his career in the semiconductor field. Johannes pioneered two successful wafer fab startups for Philips Electronics; one in Europe and the second one in Asia. And served as Senior Program Manager for Sematech, where he provided solutions for semiconductor industry-wide product improvement and cost reduction challenges. Johannes has also published articles on several trade-focused websites.


NASA, race to space, satellites, space age, space economy, space rockets, space tech

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