Private space companies such as SpaceX and Planetary Resources have been regularly trending on Google as a result of their respective accomplishments/announcements. However, these two companies barely scratch the surface of private space enterprises around the world. Other companies, such as Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are also making advancements worthy of our attention.
Blue Origin, founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, completed successful wind-tunnel tests on their orbital Space Vehicle just last week. It is in a competition to produce the replacement for the now retired space shuttles with three other private companies: Boeing Co., Sierra Nevada Corp. and SpaceX. Blue Origin plans to settle on a final design this month and start tests on their thrust chamber assembly for its BE-3 rocket engine, both of which are notable milestones.
Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is making advancements as well. Virgin Galactic’s goal is to provide commercial access to space for tourists by the end of 2013. Their rocket engine is expected to be completely finished in within the next two months. The company charges a mere $200,000 for a two hour ride of a lifetime into the outer atmosphere where they will experience less than five minutes of weightlessness. Virgin Galactic will offer these rides from their two spaceports, one in New Mexico and the other in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates.
Good News For Consumers
Six space-focused companies were mentioned above, but there are plenty more. Although many of us do not see ourselves as consumers of what the space industry supplies, one day we will be, and the plethora of private companies preparing for the future demand work to our advantage.
It’s simple competition. Competition drives quality up, prices down, and improves access. This logic may seem overly simple, but it is important to recognize the benefits we will receive, especially when we compare them to what could have been.
For the majority of America’s history, space exploration and development was handled solely by the federal government. Under this monopoly, competition only occurs when we are at war, either hot or cold. Going into the future, it is good for us to recognize that development, efficiency, and success are better driven by the private sector, especially during times of peace. Some argue that NASA was required to start the space industry in the U.S. I disagree, but regardless of which stance one takes, it still holds that from this point on the private sector and competition will enable us to conquer the final frontier.