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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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By Bubbacub on 7/17/2011 12:40:18 PM , Rating: 1
Just been thinking:

the USA has/will have 2 man rated launch systems imminently - the dragon capsule has already launched successfully and hopefully orbital sciences will figure out a way to stop sacrificing their payloads on every other launch.

The US also has easy access to ariane 5 which is a very reliable man rated launcher. The US could easily provide a capsule to be launched on ariane if it needed a third alternative.

The US also has 3 heavy launch systems, falcon 9, delta 4 and atlas V.

Why is NASA in the process of pissing away what little funds it still has on building a big expendable launcher to replicate functions that are more or less already available?

its not the sixties - docking and constructing a larger vessel from 3 or 4 launches in LEO near the ISS is well within our capabilities. we dont need to build a big fuck off rocket to send the entire deep space vehicle up in one go.

NASA should spend all of its manned space flight cash on building an interplantary vessel. they need to work on:
1: building space based nuclear reactors and associated technology to generate electricity and radiate the heat away
2: high specific impulse engines (like VASIMR)
3: building systems to shield astronauts from radiation (e.g. with clever use of magnetic fields).

In times of budgetary constraint it seems to be sheer madness to carry on building another heavy lift launcher.

p.s. i do appreciate that there is a political need to keep rocket making jobs in certain states. but i think NASA needs to look at the bigger picture and not let its entire focus be diverted just to keep a few fat senators in their jobs.

By TheCastle on 7/17/2011 6:21:40 PM , Rating: 2
Remember these companies lobby congress and the administration that they should be getting money. Congress mandates how NASA spends its budget. Obviously congress things that the NASA pie needs to be split amongst more contractors to inspire more competition to drive down the cost of low earth orbit.

Yes, space-x and orbital aren't really inventing anything their just optimizing existing designs and trying to compete (with huge government funding) with the established players.

I agree that NASA's focus should be on developing advanced technologies. However, advance technologies take often 8-10 years to develop and congress and presidents change vision too often to allow be projects to take place.

But driving down the cost of getting things to orbit is very important for deep space exploration. It takes a lot of stuff in orbit to send people to another planet.

VASIMR is getting NASA funding, and DAWN which just rendezvous with an asteroid over the weekend is using an ion drive engine.

The problem with all fundamentally new technology is it takes a lot of smart people (who want to be paid decently) a lot of years to invent and build working and reliable new designs. Especially ones that can be mass produced and all operate reliably. Heck car manufactures take 5-6 years to incrementally modify a car design and usually spend billions to do so to add some perspective.

By FPP on 7/25/2011 7:19:09 PM , Rating: 2

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