Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

The Sciences

Space Boost

After retirement of the space shuttle, NASA funding will open a big launch window for SpaceX and other private space companies.

By Victor LimjocoAugust 26, 2006 5:00 AM

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Space entrepreneurs who want to fly youinto orbit will get their chance to take cargo and crews to the spacestation when the space shuttles retire. NASA's award of contractstotaling $500 million to private rocketeers is a boost for a newapproach to spaceflight. 

"Today it costs over a billion dollars for a space shuttle flight," says Space X founder, Elon Musk. "Unless we can dramatically reduce that cost we will never become a space faring civilization."

Musknow has his chance. NASA is funding his private launch company todevelop low-cost transportation systems to replace the retiring spaceshuttles. NASA officials say this makes good on the agency's promise topartner with entrepreneurs to expand the next frontier.

"Youare getting the first traders along the Mississippi now. That'shappening in space," says, Edward J. Stanton, Jr., director of NASA's Constellation Systems Division, which is overseeing development of the transportation and exploration systems to return to the moon.

SpaceX's ultimate goal is to colonize mars. But first the company is workingto develop an industry first, a fully reusable rocket.

"Almostevery rocket on earth except for the space shuttle is thrown away afterone flight. And the space shuttle, the big orange tank that it sits onis thrown away every flight," Musk says.

The reusable rockethas other cost saving features. Space X's Falcon comes ready to fly,instead of being assembled on the launch pad.

"This isanalogous to building part of an airplane in the factory and part ofthe airplane on the runway," he says. "And you can imagine that's apretty expensive way to split the construction."

The firstlaunch attempt by Space X in March 2006 was a failure, but that's noconcern for taxpayers. Under the new NASA contracts, if these companiesdon't succeed, they won't get paid.

The other small company chosen for a NASA contract is Rocketplane Kistler, which is also developing reusable launch vehicles.

    2 Free Articles Left

    Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

    Subscribe

    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

    Want unlimited access?

    Subscribe today and save 70%

    Subscribe

    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In