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SpaceX Poised for Historic Launch -Does It Signal the Birth of a New Commercial Space Era?

by / Tuesday, 16 March 2010 / Published in Blog - Space Log

Forwarded from The Daily Galaxy: Great Discoveries Channel

SpaceX Poised for Historic Launch -Does It Signal the Birth of a New Commercial Space Era?

Casey Kazan via Reuters
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Following a successful test of its Falcon 9 rocket over the weekend, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is set become an icon for the new commercial space era as the first non-governmental American agency to send a craft into orbit, an important step forward as U.S. President Barack Obama moves forward with plans to shut down NASA’s space shuttle program and pour $6 billion in funds to help develop privately space transport firms.

Reuters confirms that the company had completed a three and a half second static firing of the Falcon 9 at a launch pad located just south of the Kennedy Space Center’s shuttle launch platforms at Cape Canaveral Air Force Base. The successful test-fire of the rocket’s nine kerosene/liquid oxygen motors now sets the stage for the Hawthorne, California firm’s inaugural mission, which could take place as early as April 12.

 

“What we are going through right now is the equivalent of ‘beta testing’,” SpaceX head Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal and Tesla Motors, told Reuters via email following an aborted test last week. “The beta phase only ends when a rocket has done at least one, but arguably two or three consecutive flights to orbit. As soon as the tests are complete and (the Air Force) has signed off, we will launch.”

SpaceX has been granted a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) license and is awaiting Air Force clearance for its fail-safe termination device.

The new Obama NASA strategy will do for space what the shift from a DARPA-funded government-centric computer industry of the 70s and early 80’s to an entrepreurial private sector strategy did for the computer industry, spawning the Internet, Apple, Intel, Google, and Microsoft. The shift from government-funded to private launched the US as the world’s innovation leader.

In supporting this radical shift, the Augustine committee pointed out that they would require at least $50 billion more over the next 10 years in order for NASA to get back to the moon. And then we would get there about a decade late, and all the money was going into one massive effort.

“Events such as the flight of “SpaceShipOne” and current work on commercial human suborbital/orbital flight systems herald a ‘New Space’ era,” said Dr Charles Lurio, publisher of “The Lurio Report” which covers the new private space sector. “Commercial activities could expand to produce economic benefits to rival the Internet/Web revolution.

“The Cold War era ‘moon race’ linked space to a government framework and a public mindset that effectively prohibited developing practical spaceflight abilities for people and cargo. Only comsat – type space businesses could succeed, since radio signals provide their own transportation to and from orbit.”

This is exactly why the rise of the US private space sector is so vital and so timely. While critics and status-quo members of congress are lining up to attack the program, US entrepreneurs from Jeff Bezos to Tesla and Space X’s Elon Musk to Microsoft’s Paul Allen, are heading at full steam into our space future. With international partners in abundance including the space programs in Canada, Japan, Europe and India along with other countries, the US space program is preparing for an exciting dynamic future.

“The US space program is not atrophying, quite the opposite. The newly proposed NASA budget and program will create the opportunity for the private sector to do for space what it did for computers: massively reduce costs and similarly increase capabilities,” said Lurio.

The money flows from the vast stimulus effort that the US government has activated over the past few months and is part of the US $6 billion, five-year effort to make sustained commercial spaceflight a reality.

“Is the private sector likely to have failures? Yes. Will lives be lost? Most regrettably, that may happen at some time or other. But NASA has had tragic losses for decades, without substantially overcoming fundamental safety issues – just as they haven’t reduced cost,” wrote Lurio in his most recent report. “The private sector would pursue multiple paths to orbit in parallel, respond more quickly to fix system flaws, and must strive constantly towards making space flight ever-safer to enable and expand its own new, private markets.”

“The proposed R&D work has several sections which themselves appear geared to both benefit from and encourage ‘a thousand flowers blooming’ in the New Space industry,” wrote Lurio, who added, “The fight for changes at NASA has barely begun.”

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