Are private launches changing the rocket equation?
by Staff Writers
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Feb 10, 2016
From the dreams of early humans who envied the flight of birds to the drawings of ornithopters by Leonardo da Vinci to the first successful powered flight by Orville and Wilbur Wright, humans have always striven to fly.
As aviation developed in leaps and bounds the lure of exploration by sending rockets into orbit began to move forward. The earliest pioneer to successfully launch a liquid-fueled rocket was the American Robert Goddard in 1926, but a team of scientists in Nazi Germany during the Second World War developed the V2 rocket weapon, which had a devastating effect on the southern counties of England.
After the war both the Soviet Union and the USA began work on space programs - only governments at that stage had the money to research and develop rockets, and it was the Soviets who won the so-called Space Race by launching Sputnik 1 into orbit in 1957. This was followed by the first human going into space, orbiting the Earth and safely returning. The pilot was Yuri Gagarin who made this incredible flight in 1961.
When the USA landed the first humans on the Moon in 1969, with the Soviet Union failing to achieve manned lunar missions, that aspect of the Space Race finished.
Today many countries have a space program, including China and India, and the USA and Russia have collaborated in the setting up and development of the International Space Station (ISS) - this is now the biggest artificial body in orbit.
Rockets and satellites are extremely expensive and as sovereign countries find it less easy to divert money from other uses, or certainly as much as they used to, to space research, a new breed of entrepreneurs has come forward to look at ways to make rocketry and space travel add up commercially.
The new breed
The most recent news is that at the end of 2015 the company launched its latest rocket, a Falcon 9, to deploy 11 satellites when it reached orbit. What made this launch special is that the booster was brought back to Earth for a soft, upright landing only a few miles from where it blasted off at Cape Canaveral, Florida. It's the first time that a rocket has been successfully recovered from an orbital flight and has considerable implications for the future of space flight, not least in terms reducing costs. If the technology continues to develop, together with its Dragon Space Capsule that has delivered cargo to the International Space Station, there are good opportunities for many more private launches. Real news on a daily basis about rocket launches is easy to find.
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