SpaceX Falcon 9 blasted off to International Space Station (ISS) on Tuesday; but it has left behind a commercial space race among the top tech companies in United States.
|U.S. Tech Giants Enter into Space Race after Successful Launch by SpaceX|
The reusable space cargo capsule ‘Dragon’ was lifted off atop Falcon 9 rocket is expected to reach near the space station for tests early Thursday and ultimately will dock on Friday with its load of supplies. Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (popularly known as SpaceX), run by Elon Musk (co-founder of PayPal and Tesla Motors) was hired by NASA to deliver cargo in the first hand, then eventually astronauts to the orbital outpost.
NASA didn’t content with SpaceX rather the space agency is hiring others, too.
With an aim to make money in commercial space race as much as eight U.S. companies have started their bid even more aggressively after SapceX’s successful launch of its rockets early this week. Most of the companies, planning to jump in the new market, think that they can make even more money than major U.S. airlines in operations.
Private space exploration companies have planned for years about carrying supplies and human for NASA, but this is the first time one is actually in orbit and about to make a delivery for the space agency.
Still, Dragon's launch is "the spark that will ignite a flourishing commercial spaceflight marketplace," said Michael Lopez-Alegria, the president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation and a former astronaut.
Hiring Musk's SpaceX and other private companies is a key part of NASA's plan to shift focus. Instead of routine flights to the space station with the now retired space shuttles, NASA is aiming further out to places like asteroids and Mars. After this test flight, SpaceX has a contract with NASA for a dozen delivery runs.
The idea is to "let private industry do what it does best and let NASA tackle the challenging task of pushing the boundary further," NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said last week.
NASA has given seed money and contracts to several companies to push them on their way. But eventually, space missions could launch, dock to a private space station or hotel and return to Earth and not have anything to do with NASA or any other country's space agency.
Earlier this month, the Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX signed an agreement with Bigelow Aerospace of Nevada which is designing inflatable space stations for research and maybe even tourists. SpaceX and other companies will provide the transportation -- like airlines -- and Bigelow the place to stay. There are already eight different licensed spaceports in the U.S. where companies can launch from and most of them have no connection to NASA.
Another space launch-and-tourism company, Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic is working separately from NASA and the space station.
If NASA isn't involved, there is one federal agency that is. The Federal Aviation Administration has a commercial space office that licenses private space missions and works with NASA to set safety standards.