Space has become a fast-growing business and as some of you may know I myself was involved in the industry in the early 2000’s. So I thought I would run through a list of what to know about space tech for 2018 in regards to companies and launches.
SpaceX will launch astronauts with Crew Dragon. For the first time, SpaceX will be sending humans to space. They have made almost a dozen trips to the International Space Station without people on board. Those missions generally bring supplies and experiments to the crew. There is a new spacecraft, called Crew Dragon that will be able to carry astronauts too. There is already a contract with NASA in place.
Boeing unveils Starliner for human space travel. Boeing has been involved in the space industry and just like SpaceX, it will be helping the international space station. The craft, called the CST-100 Starliner is having a test launch in August and a manned launch set for November 2018.
SpaceX to launch Falcon Heavy. It is the most powerful launch vehicle yet by SpaceX. It will be able to launch with a heavier load than previously done before. It may be possible for it to support manned missions to Mars in the future. It will not be the most powerful yet, however that would be the Saturn V, which was used in the Apollo moon landings and retired in 1973.
The first privately funded trip to the moon. The Google Lunar X Prize competition is near its final deadline. The first team to complete the challenge will win $20 million. Only China, the US, and the Soviet Union have completed trips to the moon. There are five left in the competition, Synergy Moon, a multinational group, Hakuto of Japan, Team Indus of India, Moon Express in the US, and Space IL of Israel. The deadline is March 31. The deadline has changed in the past, however.
SpaceX to send tourists around the moon. They have stated that in February 2017 two brave tourists had put down a large deposit in order to secure themselves a trip around the moon. The names have not been released. SpaceX will use the Falcon Heavy in order to do so. They plan to do the mission in the first few months of 2018.
Blue Origin will open a factory for New Glenn Rocket. Founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, they already have a small rocket, called the New Shepard. It will conduct more test launches in 2018. This year will host a grand opening to a new factory in the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The New Glenn will be constructed there. It is much larger and will be capable of hauling satellites to orbit, which will open opportunities for Blue Origin. It is currently being financed by Jeff Bezos personal funds. New Glenn is expected to be ready sometime in 2020.
Start-up companies have ambitions too, including Virgin Orbit and a firm from New Zealand called Rocket Lab. They plan to start launching satellites into orbit in 2018. The price to do this has dropped significantly meaning high schools and even a podcast have grown interested in sending satellites into space. However, the launches aren’t cheap or frequent. More startups are trying to fix this.
These are some trends to watch with space in 2018. However, deadlines often get pushed back for these types of projects, as there is a lot involved.