Journey To Mars, What is SpaceX Role

Another Successful Launch, Is SpaceX Clearing The Path For Humans On Mars?

SpaceX launched the latest AsiaSat satellite this morning, proving itself again as a likely NASA partner for the trip to Mars, but the launch was missing an important feature: re-usability.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched at 4 am Tuesday morning.

The Falcon 9 delivered the AsiaSat 8 satellite into orbit for the Asia Satellite Telecommunications Company (AsiaSat), a Hong Kong based commercial operator for communications spacecraft. The satellite will provide a boost to the ICT infrastructure in Asia as an AsiaSat representative explained:

“AsiaSat 8 will provide exceptional power and additional Ku beam coverage with inter-beam switching capability for services including DTH [direct-to-home] television, private networks and broadband services.”

What made this launch interesting, aside from the incredibly powerful satellite, is that the launch did not include a re-usability test for its rocket.

Reusable rockets are a huge potential contribution to the space flight industry. According to SpaceX representatives, a reusable rocket has the potential to reduce the cost of space launches by a factor of 100, which would be a huge boost for researching a Mars trip.

SpaceX has successfully tested reusable Falcon 9 rockets a number of times. The most recent being a launch for commercial-satellite firm Orbcomm that took place last month.

SpaceX has been hitting the airwaves to promote its development of the first rapidly reusable rocket. Impressive video of the tests, like the one shown below, highlight the potential to greatly reduce the cost of space adventures, including a future trip to Mars.

U.S. companies like SpaceX are part of NASA’s plan for a manned journey to Mars. With NASA shuttle program in retirement, getting astronauts into Earth’s low-orbit will soon be a job for the American private sector.

NASA's Path To Mars
This Diagram shows NASA’s idea for a trip to Mars

(Image Credit: NASA)

SpaceX has said that its first manned mission would be no sooner than mid-2015, on board one of its Dragon spacecraft. That launch may prove to be a turning point for space travel, as reusable rockets allow NASA to stretch its limited budget further than ever before.

Mars One, a Dutch non-profit organization dedicated to conceptualizing a journey to Mars, has also included SpaceX as a fundamental component of the journey to Mars.

Although SpaceX has said it has been in contact with Mars One, working with the non-profit was not part of the current focus for SpaceX.

Will the next decade be one of rapid advancements in space travel, where private firms like SpaceX lay the groundwork for a cost-effective space infrastructure and a mission to Mars? Only time will tell.

[Top Image Credit: NASA]