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In the upcoming years, SpaceX has extremely high ambitions for space travel to Mars

The millionaire brainiac behind the Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) program has high ambitions of future private space exploration. Founder Elon Musk seeks a trip to the Red Planet of Mars before NASA's mid-2030s current projected timeframe.

Of course, Musk and SpaceX have delayed projects and failed tests in the past, but have shown great promise in current projects. SpaceX also continues to collect funds from NASA and other contractors looking to help go into space.

NASA's interest on the private sector relies on the hope of being able to use the SpaceX Dragon as an astronaut ferry into space, while the Falcon Heavy can carry cargo. The SpaceX Falcon Heavy successfully broke the $1,000-per-pound-to-orbit barrier at a time when space industry experts thought it couldn't be done at the time.

NASA and the US federal government are relying more on private contractors to help in the future -- SpaceX and its rivals will be more than happy to pick up the research slack. The SpaceX Dragon capsule may be prepared for launch in the next five years, with thoughts also on manned mission to Mars. Until then, the company recently announced it will invest $30 million for Space Launch Complex 4-East, located at Vandenberg Air Force Base. 

It's believed up to 1,000 employees could be employed at the facility in the next four years. SpaceX plans to launch aircraft and test projects from the popular launching site, while competitors look for other launch sites.

The private space market is growing with even more companies trying to snag government funding -- and SpaceX will have to face the United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket, along with foreign-based projects.

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RE: Good thing
By Jeffk464 on 7/17/2011 9:05:42 AM , Rating: 2
There is something I don't get, are these companies getting NASA money to design, build, and test these rockets. Or are these companies just hoping to get NASA contracts for launches?

RE: Good thing
By TheCastle on 7/17/2011 6:11:04 PM , Rating: 2
Space X and Orbital were tech start-up companies that were seeded with money from two billionaires. They lobbied/asked congress and the Obama administration that they should be allowed to compete with the established space industry, Boeing, LMT, USA, etc as a lower cost alternative to maintain the ISS. Space-x was awarded development money by NASA to modify and re-use Apollo rocket engines, and rocket designs. Then they were awarded 1.6 billion dollars by NASA to resupply the space station, with bigger future dreams to deliver astronauts to the ISS.

So yes, they are funded by NASA, just like all other private contractors. Again the only organization that has money to pay to send people in to orbit and send cargo to ISS is NASA. These private companies couldn't afford to build their own space programs without government assistance, and using already invented technology.

That is not to say they aren't doing something with the money. What Space-X claims it can do is modify existing Apollo rocket engines/designs. Operate them with modern materials, and technology to make them far more reliable and require less redundancy. More reliability requires less people to operate/maintain, and lower cost. Their big claim to fame is to drive down the cost of lifting cargo to low earth orbit to ~$1000 per lbs vs NASA Shuttle costs ranging in the $10,000-$18,000lbs cost depending on payload, orbit, inclination, etc.

The fundamental problem everyone in the space business has... Is no one has figured out how to take cargo and or people from rest on the ground to 17,500 mph with out strapping them to a huge but controlled bomb. The fuel alone costs millions per launch, it just takes a lot of fuel to accelerate the fuel, and the mass to 17,500mph to achieve orbit. Nobody has figured out a way to do it more cheaply, yet. When space travel gets to $5 a lbs to LEO, people will go routinely.

RE: Good thing
By Reclaimer77 on 7/17/2011 6:27:43 PM , Rating: 2
Wouldn't it be just as viable and way cheaper and lower risk to just develop a replacement for the Concorde?

I think it's pretty ridiculous that it's 2011 and we still don't have supersonic commercial craft.

RE: Good thing
By Jeffk464 on 7/17/2011 9:31:26 PM , Rating: 2
The name of the game in commercial aviation is fuel savings. I even heard that some airlines have slowed their cruising speed on existing airframes to save on fuel costs. I'm pretty sure the driving focus on future aircraft is all about per passenger mpg.

RE: Good thing
By Solandri on 7/18/2011 12:04:13 AM , Rating: 2
Wouldn't it be just as viable and way cheaper and lower risk to just develop a replacement for the Concorde?
That was the original U.S. plan to get into space. You overcome the most fuel-intensive portion of your flight profile (the takeoff and early ascent) with fuel-efficient aerodynamic lift. Only after you get up into the thin upper atmosphere where air resistance is lower and aerodynamic lift becomes less effective, do you turn on the rockets.

But then the Soviets launched Sputnik, and all thoughts of efficiency went out the window. Cost became no object. As a matter of national pride, we had to get something up there quick and dirty, and pure rockets (a WWII technology) were the best way to do it. If there had been no space race to distract us for 4+ decades with pure rockets, and the U.S. had continued on its original research path, I suspect we'd already have hypersonic sub-orbital transports today. Launching satellites while in sub-orbit at considerably less cost, and making the occasional 2-hour trip from NYC to Tokyo if there were ever an urgent need for a trip that quick.

RE: Good thing
By mjv.theory on 7/18/2011 5:37:23 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, only about 7% of the fuel is used to overcome gravity and air resistance. The rest is used to get to orbital velocity. So it's not about how high an air-breathing spaceplane can get, it's about how fast it can get, before switching to rockets. Google for SKYLON, for info on how to build a viable spaceplane.

RE: Good thing
By Jeffk464 on 7/19/2011 9:58:45 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah thats what I was thinking, if you use a plane based drop system like the virgin galactic setup you save yourself about 500mph. So that is 17,000mph minus 500mph, eh.

RE: Good thing
By Reclaimer77 on 7/18/2011 11:41:44 AM , Rating: 2
You overcome the most fuel-intensive portion of your flight profile (the takeoff and early ascent) with fuel-efficient aerodynamic lift.

Well it also helped that it was launched from a B-52 at high altitude and didn't have to start from the ground at 0 mph :)

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