Most of us are looking at human spaceflight as a national effort. In many ways, it has been for decades. That is changing. Multiple individuals are
working on their own private efforts to get into space. Until the 2000s, previous efforts have always failed. Often in very disappointing ways.
However, times have changed and there are several efforts to get into space separate from the governments from the world. These are often called
NewSpace and seen as a different breed. However, they're not as different as they seem.
We will only be discussing the human spaceflight efforts. There are others attempting to get into space not geared to humans. Some are quite
interesting or quite...sordid...in their details. We will not be discussing them.
We've mentioned SpaceX already earlier in the serious. Elon Musk seems to have cast himself into the role of Tony Stark, except that Tony does all
the inventing, Musk is more like Edison, leading up the team as CEO and public face. Think conductor of the orchestra, not inventor or violinist.
Most people point to SpaceX's efforts as a triumph of private over public practice. This is true. Decisions are made quickly without the overhead
insanity that NASA has. NASA's culture of caution and quintuple checking everything was born in a time when industry could barely accomplish what
NASA wanted in the technical sense. Industry has surpassed those standards in the almost 60 years since NASA's birth though. SpaceX utterly
exemplifies that capability, both in manufacturing and in management.
Another bit that is not discussed in public much, even though the information is readily available, is SpaceX, while getting lots of private money,
really has been paid for by the tax payer. The original Falcon1 rocket was not paid for with private capital. Its development was paid for by DARPA
as part of its hypersonic test program. While that program went away, Musk used it as a way to bootstrap his way into business. Something really
difficult in Silicon Valley: the old joke here is that rockets are a great way to make a small fortune...from a large one.
Musk is notorious for being behind schedule or changing his mind on what he is doing. He cancelled the Falcon1 rocket after already having contracts
for the launches paid for and causing some satellite companies nontrivial problems. He has decided he will not be developing the FalconHeavy any more
because he wants the BFR, Big...Falcon...Rocket, that he needs to get people to Mars. The first BFR is supposed to be being built now in Los Angeles.
We shall see how that goes. However, he's aiming for the mid 2020s for the first Muskovite (or Musky, if you prefer) astronaut on Mars. This may,
probably will, slip.
Musk's aim has always been and will remain, the intent to create a Mars colony. Truthfully, it will be one where the rich alone will go: the cheapest
price I have seen quoted (and that's really cheaper than I think it ought to be) is $500k for a trip there...and that doesn't cover living on Mars.
That ain't gonna be cheap, not the least is because the planet is mildly toxic. The soil seems to be contaminated with perchlorates salts...and those
are not terribly good for people. Watney would have died. And that doesn't cover a trip back either.
Even so, I hope he succeeds. Given how business climates can change, I'm quite happy to continue paying for the NASA planned missions as well though:
as NASA learned and we covered before, one shouldn't place all the eggs in one basket.
Bezos started Blue Origin because he wanted to go to space himself. However, his progress has been slower, but speeding up. The reason for the
slower progress is because he hasn't been taking money from the government and he's kept his folks within a budget. He has invested approximately
$2.5 billion of his own money into the effort.
His team also decided to go straight for the reusable rocket, much like the Falcon9R is in SpaceX, rather than go for the expendable rockets. That's
not easy and there was some turmoil early on in the BO start because of it. However, BO has successfully tested suborbital launches (and a capsule)
for some time now. In fact, they will start selling suborbital tickets here shortly.
Blue Origin's first truly orbital rocket, the New Glenn, will is expected to have its initial launch in 2020. It's capacity to orbit is about 2/3s
the FalconHeavy. BO has already manifested paying customers for the rocket. Once the rocket has a successful track record, given Bezos' crew testing
the capsule already, it's highly likely human spaceflight is coming afterwards.
Musk and Bezos are not the only Silicon Valley types to be investing very heavily into their own private space program. So, too, is Paul Allen.
Allen has invested in Stratolaunch, the brain child of Burt Rutan. This is a company that is build an ENORMOUS aircraft, one of the biggest ever
built, to carry rockets up into atmosphere and then dropping them to ignite the rockets to get into orbit. This is very similar to, but on a far, far
grander scale to what is done with the Pegasus rocket built by Northrop Grumman
This has some serious advantages for picking what inclination you want in an orbit without paying a penalty either in payload into orbit (because your
rocket needs to change direction as it goes up) or in propellant once your payload is in orbit which is rather precious on your satellite or capsule:
it costs ~100 m/s to change your inclination 1 deg. To go from an equatorial orbit to the orbit of the international space station (assuming you are
a capsule already in orbit) is over 5,000 m/s...half way into getting into orbit in the first place!
It also has some advantages in that you can launch a payload to a particular rendezvous in space very quickly. Normally, a capsule will get into
space and then take time to get to the rendezvous, with, say, the space station. This could line up such that the payload or capsule will get there
very fast since the payload would be effectively timed and aimed to do so straight from the launch.
There has been very little public information about Allen's plans for human spaceflight. There was a plan for a time to use Sierra Nevada's
DreamChaser on a rocket. It's not a bad one and would give both Sierra Nevada another booster into space and it would give Stratolaunch a relatively
quick orbital capability. There are some indications Stratolaunch is going a different direction though. There is a project called 'Black Ice'
within Stratolaunch for their own spaceplane. What that is or what that represents for Stratolaunch and its relationship with Sierra Nevada is about
as clear as mud. At this point, anything other than its name and being a spaceplane is entirely wild speculation.
Hit the limit again. More coming later. Virgin Galactic/Orbit, Reaction Engines & Bigelow are next.
edit on 6-7-2018 by anzha because: forgot
one for what's next