Billionaire space race
The billionaire space race is the intense rivalry in NewSpace by recent space entrepreneurs, who entered the space industry as billionaires from other industries, particularly computing. This private industry space race of the 21st century involves sounding rockets to the ignorosphere (mesosphere and thermosphere), orbital launch rockets, and suborbital tourist spaceflights.
Amongst the billionaires entering into New Space, are
- dotcom Russian billionarie Yuri Milner, backing the Breakthrough Starshot project for an interstellar probe.
- internet South-African-Canadian-American billionaire Elon Musk, behind SpaceX and a project to colonize Mars
- e-Commerce American billionaire Jeff Bezos, behind Blue Origin and establishing a true industrial base in space
- software American billionaire Paul G. Allen, behind Vulcan Aerospace and reducing the cost to launch payload to orbit
- mogul British billionaire Richard Branson, behind Virgin Galactic; and space tourism, low cost small orbital launchers, and intercontinental suborbital transit
The groundwork for the billionaire space race and NewSpace was arguably laid by Peter Diamandis, an American entrepreneur. In the 1980s, he founded an American national student space society, the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS). Later, Jeff Bezos became a chapter president of SEDS. In the 1990s, Diamandis, dissolute with the state of space development, decided to spur it on and spark the suborbital space tourism market, by initiating a prize, the X Prize. This led to Paul Allen becoming involved in the competition, creating the Scaled Composites Tier One platform of SpaceShipOne and White Knight One which won the Ansari X-Prize in the 2000s. The technology of the winning entrant was then licensed by Richard Branson's Virgin Group as a basis to found Virgin Galactic. The base techniques of Tier One also form the basis for Stratolaunch Systems of Vulcan Aerospace. The billionaire space race shows the aims of billionaires extend beyond just fulfilling government contracts, with their own gilding of the space age, in extending capabilities and their own luster. Elon Musk has expressed excitement for a new space race..
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SpaceX vs Blue Origin
SpaceX and Blue Origin have had a long history of conflict. There is a vision of a hare versus a tortoise, for the two respectively, from Blue Origin's standpoint. Blue Origin and SpaceX have had dueling press releases that compete with each other's announcements and events.
SpaceX and Blue Origin battled for the right to lease SLC 39A, the rocket launch platform that was used to launch the Apollo moon missions. SpaceX won the lease in 2013, but Blue Origin filed suit in court against that. It is currently in the hands of SpaceX, while Blue Origin rented SLC 36 instead.
SpaceX filed suit against Blue Origin to invalidate their patent on landing rockets aboard ships at sea. They won their court fight in 2014. SpaceX had been attempting to land rockets at sea since 2014, finally succeeding in 2016, before Blue Origin ever even built a sea-going platform to land rockets onto.
SpaceX and Blue Origin got into a Twitter battle about the meaning of a used rocket, landed rocket, spacerocket, at the end of 2015, when New Shepard successfully landed, after a suborbital jaunt into space. SpaceX had previously launched and landed its Grasshopper rocket multiple times without reaching space. Then SpaceX landed a Falcon 9 first stage, which had been used to launch a satellite into orbit, prompting more Twitter battle at the start of 2016.
At the 2016 International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, Blue Origin President Rob Meyerson elaborated on the Bezos vision previously outlined in the New Glenn announcement. The Blue Origin New Armstrong would be similar in function to the SpaceX Interplanetary Transport System that Elon Musk unveiled at the same conference.
Blue Origin vs Virgin Galactic
Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are in the same market, suborbital space tourism, with New Shepard and SpaceShipTwo (Tier 1b), respectively. They are in a race to be first to launch paying customers on short spaceshots, with rival technological philosophies of space capsules and spaceplanes, respectively
Virgin Galactic vs SpaceX
Virgin Galactic and SpaceX support competing communications satellite constellations. Each would launch their satellites on their own launchers, LauncherOne and Falcon 9/Falcon Heavy respectively. The satellite systems would compete for the same market and same bandwidth and go head-to-head at the ITU for satellite frequency licenses.
Stratolaunch vs Virgin Galactic
Vulcan Aerospace subsidiary Stratolaunch Systems plans to air-launch satellite launcher rockets, the same profile as planned by Virgin Galactic for its LauncherOne operations. While LauncherOne is already under development and launch aircraft procured (once White Knight Two, now 747 Cosmic Girl), the Scaled Composites "Roc" Model 351 is still being developed and the rocket to mate to it has yet to be selected.
Impact on the space sector
The billionaire space race and the rise of Space 2.0 has impacted on "Old Space", the old space hands of the pre-existing aerospace sector. The disruptive forces of NewSpace may wash away some of the standing members of the community. In particular SpaceX and Blue Origin represent existential threats to the old boys club and staid storied enterprises of aerospace. SpaceX challenges all members of the old guard with the pricing of its launch vehicles, being lower than the previous low cost leader, the Chinese launch services. It greatly undercuts the monopolistic leader of the European and American space launch services sectors, respectively, ArianeSpace and United Launch Alliance (an alliance of Boeing and Lockheed Martin). The position of Blue Origin is that of a future threat. Both SpaceX and Blue Origin put forth reusable launch vehicles, forcing ULA and Ariane to design next generation rockets with partial reusability features to attempt to reduce costs to be competitive with the new twin threats, using the Vulcan and Ariane 6 respectively. Boeing has also fired shots across the bow of SpaceX (and others) in the race to Mars, intending to arrive first. Boeing and SpaceX both are exploring sub-orbital transport with hypersonic rocket transports, SpaceX basing it on reusable Falcon 9 technology, which would compete with transcontinental and transoceanic air travel.
- Cold War Space Race; between the U.S.A. and U.S.S.R.; leading to the Race to the Moon
- Asian space race; between China, India, and Japan for space prestige
- Space launch market competition
- Commercialization of space
- Mars race
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