SpaceX: Space Economy Ventures and Interplanetary Spaceflight

The most common Idea has always been that governments and public institution were the only one who could implement explore and improve our knowledge and presence in Space but in the last decade, some other actor have started to take a leading role in the exploration of space and the discovery of new business opportunity as it’s documented today by the report of the “Space Foundation” which states that the global space economy, as of today, is estimated to be worth 420 billion dollars with an expansion of more than 70% since 2010.

One of the leading company in this area is SpaceX, an American aerospace manufacturer and a provider of space transportation services, it was founded in 2002 to revolutionize access to space and enable a multi-planetary society. 

CEO Elon Musk felt that in order to even consider creating a market for space travel and all the possible venture linked to Satellite and space, there was the need to dramatically reduce the cost of production of spacecraft. That’s when he decided to create SpaceX in order to design much cheaper but still reliable and efficient spacecraft that were able to leave the earth orbit, to do that he realized that he needed to reinvent what had been done before so he choose to take care of all of the stages of the production process inside of the company by applying vertical integration.

Today, SpaceX performs routine missions to space with its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles for a diverse set of customers, it provides support to NASA with the Dragon spacecraft by conducting cargo resupply and return missions to and from the International Space Station (ISS) and transporting crew to the ISS.

To offer competitive launch and resupply services, SpaceX has incorporated reusability into the Falcon and Dragon systems, which improves vehicle reliability while reducing cost. 

These are some of the spacecraft in Production: 

  • Falcon 9 is a reusable, two-stage rocket designed and manufactured by SpaceX for the reliable and safe transport of people and payloads into Earth orbit and beyond, it is the world’s first orbital class reusable rocket. Reusability allows SpaceX to refly the most expensive parts of the rocket, which in turn drives down the cost of space access.
  • The Dragon spacecraft is capable of carrying up to 7 passengers to and from Earth orbit, and beyond. It is the only spacecraft currently flying that is capable of returning significant amounts of cargo to Earth, and is the first private spacecraft to take humans to the space station. In 2020, SpaceX returned America’s ability to fly NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station on American vehicles for the first time since 2011. In addition to flying astronauts to space for NASA, SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft can also carry commercial astronauts to Earth orbit, the ISS or beyond like it did on the 9th of April 2022 when it took four civilians to the ISS, it was a breakthrough experience for which all of the crew member paid 55 million dollars.
  • SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket (collectively referred to as Starship) represent a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry both crew and cargo to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars and beyond. Starship will be the world’s most powerful launch vehicle ever developed, with the ability to carry in excess of 100 metric tonnes to Earth orbit.

STARLINK

One of the most ambitious project that is taking place at the company is the Starlink project, which is designed to deliver high-speed, broadband internet, even to places where access has been unreliable, too expensive, or completely unavailable using advanced satellites in a low orbit.

Starlink is ideally suited for areas where connectivity has been completely unavailable as it enables access to essential online services and resources for rural communities that have historically gone unserved by traditional internet service providers.

People across the globe are using Starlink to gain access to education, health services and even communications support during natural disasters or in case of emergency situations like we’ve witnessed during the war between Russia and Ukraine. It works by sending information through the vacuum of space, where it travels much faster than in fiber-optic cable and can reach far more people and places.

It consist in a constellation of multiple satellites that orbit the planet really close to Earth, at about 550km, and cover the entire globe.

Because of the fact that satellites are in a low orbit, the round-trip data time between the user and the satellite – also known as latency – is much lower than with satellites in geostationary orbit. 

This enables Starling to deliver services that are usually not provided due to the speed of the net on other satellite broadband systems.

As well as the high end quality of the Satellites it was possible to create such an effective service thanks to the technology that allowed some part of the spacecraft to be reused for several launch in order to be able to replace and update the satellites.

This is ultimately a game-changing technology as it will give to people who live in undeveloped country the possibility to be connected to the rest of the world and consequently have access to all the powerful tools related to the Internet, giving them an ulterior instrument to establish a regular and sustained growth from an Economic and Technological point of view

IN-EARTH TRAVEL

SpaceX is also getting serious about building “Ocean-based Spaceports” which can be used for a variety of missions.

Moreover they are essential in order to realize one of the next project of the company which is Intra-Earth Travel which sets as its goal to make it possible for people to travel anywhere on earth in less than one hour, as it is shown on the SpaceX website. 

This could drastically reshape humanity’s concepts of time and space.

LOS ANGELES TO NEW YORK3,983 km5 hours, 25 min.25 min
TOKYO TO SINGAPORE5,350 km7 hours, 10 min.28 min.
LONDON TO HONG KONG9,648 km11 hours, 50 min.34 min.

These flight will be supposed to take place on the Starship Rocket and they will be able to hold 1000 people, making it possible, according to “Space Review”, to book one of the spacecraft ticket for 1200$ which is not that much if you consider the price of  a similar  plane tickets nowadays.

INTERPLANETARY TRAVEL

First Private Lunar Mission “Dearmoon”In 2018, Billionaire Japanese entrepreneur, Yusaku Maezawa, announced the world’s first private passenger mission fly by the moon aboard starship.

Known as dearMoon, this mission is an important step toward enabling access for people who dream of traveling to space. 

The Japanese Billionaire purchased 9 seats for an undisclosed amount of money, he decided to keep one for himself  while giving away the 8 spots left to whoever wanted to take part in this mission for free. 

Applications were open to anyone and in order to decide who to take with him he made all the potential  applicant take a video of themselves while explaining the reason they wanted to go on this one week journey.

Unfortunately applications are now closed but we still don’t know who will take part to the mission.

The launch is expected to take place in 2023 and the member of the space-crew will become the first civilian on a lunar Starship mission, featuring a fly-by of the Moon during their week-long journey.

Artemis Program in Partnership with NASA

On April 16 2021 NASA announced that they had selected Starship to land the first astronauts on the lunar surface since the Apollo program. 

SpaceX is scheduled to land NASA’s Artemis 3 mission on the lunar surface in 2025 or 2026

Only 24 humans have been to the Moon, and no one has been back since 1972. 

Being able to reach for the moon and land astronauts on the moon surface might be one of the first step throughout a progressive accumulation of knowledge needed to be able to really make it possible for humans to become a multi-planetary species

In fact using the technology and research developed during the Artemis spaceflights, NASA intends to launch a future crewed mission to Mars. This ambitious NASA ‘Moon to Mars’ plan involves building a new space station in lunar orbit and, eventually, a habitable Moon base. NASA is not simply aiming to repeat the feats of the Apollo missions with Artemis, but rather to go to the Moon ‘and stay there’. That means investigating the possibility of establishing bases both in lunar orbit and on the Moon’s surface, although the primary goal for now still involves returning humans to the Moon by the middle of the decade.

Artemis 3 will land a crew at thMoon’s South Polar region, it is planned to have two astronauts on the surface of the Moon for about one week. Flying between lunar orbit and the surface of the Moon, Starship will carry crew and all of the supplies, equipment, and science payloads needed for extensive surface exploration

Becoming an Interplanetary Species

Central to the plan is the Starship Spacecraft, this fully-reusable rocket it will enable SpaceX to send humans and cargo to Mars. The ship will be capable of launching over 100 tons or 100 people into space at a time.

Its use of liquid oxygen and methane as fuel, rather than the rocket propellant used in the Falcon 9, means explorers can fly to Mars, refuel using resources found on the planet, and fly back to Earth. The astronauts could even venture out further into space, building a planet-hopping network of refueling stations along the way.

In March 2019, Musk wrote on Twitter that “it’s possible to make a self-sustaining city on Mars by 2050, if we start in 5 years & take 10 orbital synchronizations” 

One important factor to keep into consideration is the fact that Mars and Earth are at their closest around once every 26 months. The distance between the two at this time reduces to around 33.9 million miles, that would mean it would take around 22 years at a minimum to build the city so this is quiet a long term goal to achieve but set to start pretty soon in fact in March 2022 Musk suggested that a possible date for humanity to witness first human on Mars would be 2029.

Musk claimed that a return ticket could cost around $500,000 initially, dropping to $100,000 over time. He has moreover set himself an ambitious deadline of a self-sustaining Mars city with 1 million people by 2050 he would turn 79 years old that year.

The idea is to first build small cities on the surface of Mars were people could live protected from all kind on danger that the Mars environment and atmosphere involve, but as time goes by trying to make the planet more habitable for the human specie. This process would be called terraformation of Mars which is a hypothetical procedure that would consist of a planetary engineering project, with the goal of transforming Mars from a planet hostile to terrestrial life to one that can sustainably host humans and other lifeforms free of protection or mediation.

Despite the fact that to many people this kind of project and venture might seem not achievable or even crazy I believe that this is the right time and we have quiet the right technology to push ourself over the boundaries of space. When you think about it, most of the things that changed the world we live in right now were regarded as impossible or unrealistic before someone turned them into our reality.

We need to take into account the fact that it’s not going to be easy and it surely is not going to be fast but I believe that we need to consider the progress that are being made and the rising interest that these new ideas are captivating.

“You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great – and that’s what being a spacefaring civilization is all about. It’s about believing in the future and thinking that the future will be better than the past. And I can’t think of anything more exciting than going out there and being among the stars.”

-Elon Musk

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