As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, we’re once again experiencing an exciting time for space exploration—records are being broken, and many governments and private companies are setting ambitious goals.
The 2019 Humans to Mars Summit was recently held in Washington, DC and NASA’s goal date of landing astronauts on the moon was accelerated to 2024. This would be the first crewed visit to the lunar surface since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972. The project is seen by NASA as the beginning of a long-term presence on the moon, as well as a stepping-stone to Mars.
Stakeholders of the space industry aren’t alone in working toward these goals. Various types of manufacturing and technologies—high-pressure and otherwise—will be needed to achieve the advancements the industry has set its sights on. As a solutions manufacturer that works closely with organizations that are making their mark in space exploration, Haskel has consulted with and supplied equipment to several pioneering companies to help them with their high-pressure generation and containment needs. We’re excited to see what this next phase of the industry looks like. Below are some of the things we’re keeping an eye on and what’s to come:
- In April of this year, the world’s largest aircraft, the Scaled Composites-built twin-fuselage Stratolaunch, took its maiden flight. With the goal of reducing the associated costs of space launches, this is the world’s largest all-composite air-launch-to-orbit system. The development of Stratolaunch is aimed at creating airline-style access to space with reliability and affordability as the foundation.
- Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo vehicle is looking to revolutionize tourism, taking passengers on short trips to suborbital space. This unique spaceplane has room for two pilots and up to six passengers. The system is designed to drop from the belly of a purpose-built carrier jet, called WhiteKnightTwo, and fire a hybrid rocket motor to reach an altitude of more than 50 miles into the airless environment at the edge of space. This would give passengers a few minutes of weightlessness before descending back to Earth. The reusable SpaceShipTwo lands on the same runway from which it departed. This project is currently in the test-flight phase.
- The recent spending bill approved by Congress included a $100 million line item for NASA to develop nuclear thermal rocket engines. Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) is more efficient than a chemical rocket and could reduce flight times to places like Mars. Advances in nuclear technology allow engineers to now develop cheaper, lighter, and safer nuclear thermal propulsion than in the past. These new nuclear rockets could fundamentally change space travel. No one knows exactly what NASA has planned with this technology, but the possibilities are endless.
Road to Space:
- Jeff Bezos recently announced plans to build a "road to space" so 1 trillion humans can live and work there. His rocket company, Blue Origin, has been working toward launching people and payloads into space. The Amazon founder shared details about Blue Origin’s new, sleek lunar lander. While still in the early stages, this new rocket development brings another interesting perspective to the space industry. The goal is to permanently extend humans’ reach deep into the solar system for different types of space colonies.
- Starlink is an ambitious project by SpaceX, aiming to bridge the digital divide by putting a vast network of small satellites into low-Earth orbit (LEO) that can beam connectivity to any place on planet Earth. The goal? Create a constellation of 12,000 satellites, all communicating with each other through lasers, that will deliver Ku/Ka-band broadband internet access 40 times faster than what satellite services currently offer. This month, the company used a Falcon 9 rocket to carry a batch of 60 satellites from Cape Canaveral. The launch was a success—all the satellites were successfully launched, and the first stage booster even landed safely on SpaceX’s drone barge.
- Blue Origin’s 'Project Kuiper' is a similar concept, with 3,236 satellites creating a global broadband internet service.
So many things to look forward to! It is a very interesting time for space exploration, and we’re going to keep a close eye on what’s to come and how it impacts other industries.
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