Private Space Companies Reach For the Stars

Thanks to the new private space flight industry, there are a lot more companies on our world prepared to reach for the stars. Virgin Galactic is likely to be helping the wealthy tour the friendly orbit fairly soon. They’ve created the SpaceShipTwo, pictured above, to provide suborbital space flights to tourists as well as help with suborbital launches for space science missions and orbital launches of small satellites. In the future, Virgin is hoping to offer orbital human spaceflights as well.

SpaceX recently unveiled its own version of the spaceplane called the Dragon V2. This low earth orbit flyer is just a small part of the vision of founder Elon Musk, who hopes to colonize Mars during his lifetime.

Companies like Virgin Galactic and SpaceX are very well known in the space industry, but there are several others popping up that we seldom hear about? For the curious, here’s a list documenting the endeavors of several.

One of these companies is Armadillo Aerospace and their Black Armadillo rocket. This company has worked closely with NASA to develop Scorpius rockets. They want to launch a spacecraft with VTVL (vertical take-off, verticle landing) which would be able to carry cargo and humans up and then land with them again. Their rockets have passed extensive testing and they are running unmanned test flights on various models to work out kinks in that plan.

Reaction Engines Limited, a British-based company, hopes to design the SKYLON spacecraft. Using SABRE engines, a special type of air-breathing rocket propusion system, they hope to build this spaceplane to potentially be reused for about 200 flights. The hydrogen-fueled craft would take off from a conventional runway and accelerate to Mach 5.4 using atmoshperic air, then switch to internal liquid oxygen to reach orbit. Once there, it would release its payload of up to 15 tonnes before re-entering. The vehicle itself would have no pilot, but would be able to carry passengers.

Space enthusiast entrepreneur Robert Bigelow, founder of Bigelow Aerospace has dreams of one day putting up space habitats which could be reached on board the CST-100 spacecraft. He expects their company to bring up to 6 crewmembers to the BA 330 inflatable space module currently being tested by his company, as well as using the craft to help people reach the International Space Station. He is so dedicated to success in the endeavor that he has even teamed up with fellow entrepreneur Elon Musk of SpaceX to get an as yet undisclosed payload up into low Earth orbit in preparation for these plans, and he intends to invest at least another $500 million dollars of funds he made from his hotel chain over the next year to see the job done.

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