The main race to reach space started between USA and Russia almost 60 years ago on October 4, 1957. But now, with new technologies being developed everyday and the space market becoming increasingly commercialized, even government organisations like NASA are now contracting and joining hands with private companies for different space missions.
With technological advancement, space no longer remains the realm of government space agencies and organisations. Private companies are entering the space market and are driving this sector with even more force.
The challenge now remains between the agencies of the government and these private space companies that are aiming for the sky and stopping at nothing. The government, today, has needs that can easily be fulfilled by the private sector, which includes areas of research and development. Therefore, the government is now contracting private organisations to develop human rated launch vehicles and spacecrafts to carry astronauts and people to and from the ISS, in addition to other space missions.
The commercialization of the space market has also transferred some of the control of the industry from the government to the private companies that are self-sufficient. The government has given way for private enterprises to enter the space market as it aims for increasingly difficult and riskier space missions. But, at the same time, this commercialization is also essential for the space economy to grow and achieve all the set goals.
Some of such private companies that are helping and challenging the government agencies are mentioned below:
SpaceX has its headquarters in California and is also known as Space Exploration Technologies Corp. It is one of the biggest private aerospace manufacturers and space transportation companies in the US as well as the world. It was founded by Elon Musk in 2002 with the objective to reduce the costs of space transportation and also enable human beings to eventually be able to live on Mars.
SpaceX has developed the following main types of launch vehicles:
a. FALCON 9:
This is a two-stage rocket system that was designed and manufactured by the company for transferring satellites and the Dragon spacecraft into the Earth?s low orbits with safety and reliability. Falcon 9 is also known as the first of its class orbital rocket which is reusable. This space launcher vehicle is also one of the most reliable launch vehicles which is designed in a way that it has the maximum safety and security right from the ground up.
b. FALCON HEAVY:
Also known as the most powerful operational rocket among all rockets across the whole world, Falcon Heavy is a rocket that has the ability to lift almost 64 metric tons of payload and cargo into the low orbits of the Earth. According to studies, it can lift more than twice the payload of the Delta IV Heavy rocket, which comes next in line for being a similar operational vehicle.
Also called the Big Falcon Rocket, the BFR is a fully reusable launch vehicle and spacecraft which is privately funded and is being developed by SpaceX. This space vehicle in a two-in-one vehicle which includes a launch vehicle as well as a spacecraft, along with an infrastructure for a rapid launch and relaunch. It can carry more than 100,000 kilograms of payload into the low Earth orbits.
Antrix Corporation Limited, or ACL is a space company owned solely by the Government of India and has its headquarters in Bangalore. ACL is controlled by the Department of Space, and was later incorporated as a private company while also serving as the marketing head branch of ISRO. Some of the major objectives set by ACL is the promotion and commercial exploitation of space products, along with technical consultancy services and the transfer of technologies that have been developed by ISRO.
It has the following launch vehicle types:
a. POLAR SATELLITE LAUNCH VEHICLE OR PSLV:
The PSLV is also known as the third generation launch vehicle of India, and is also the first Indian launch vehicle that comes equipped with liquid stages. It can lift a payload of around 295 tons. It has had 39 consecutive successful missions till June 2017 and is famous around the world for successfully launching the Chandrayaan-1 to the Moon in 2008 and the Mars Orbiter Spacecraft to Mars in 2013.
b. GEOSYNCHRONOUS SATELLITE LAUNCH VEHICLE OR GSLV:
The GSLV is a three-stage launch vehicle system which is categorized under the fourth generation launch vehicles of India. It can transfer 2 to 2.5 tons of payload into the GTO, or the geostationary transfer orbit of the Earth. Moreover, it can also carry almost 5 tons of payload into the low orbits of the Earth. It prides itself in four consecutive successes in its missions since January 2014.
The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, also commonly known as CASC, was established in July 1999, and is the main organisation that has the responsibility to oversee the Chinese space programs. It is owned by the state and has many smaller subsidiary companies that design, develop and manufacture the different launch vehicles, space crafts as well as missile systems and ground equipment that China needs for its space missions.
The launch vehicle designed and developed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation includes the LONG MARCH ROCKET. This rocket is one of the main launch vehicles which is designed and manufactured in a family of expendable launch systems by China. It can carry a payload of 12,000 kilograms into the low orbits of the Earth.
Also known as the company that was the world?s first commercial launch service provider, Arianespace was founded in 1980. It is responsible for taking care of the marketing and operations of the Ariane programme. Arianespace was founded with the mission of guaranteeing Europe independent access to space. It is also among the top companies in the world for commercial space transport and has launched more than 550 satellites since May 2017.
The company has developed a number of different launch vehicles, which are mentioned below:
a. ARIANE 5:
Also sometimes known as the best answer to heavy lift launchers, Ariane 5 is famous for having set a global standard for rocket launches made to the geostationary transfer orbits of the Earth. It has the ability to carry payloads of 10 metric tons to the GTO and more than 20 metric tons to the low Earth orbits. It has had 91 launches, 77 out of which have been consecutive successes till now.
The Soyuz is a medium lift launcher system which was developed in 2011 and has been the world?s longest operating launch vehicle with 4 reliable stages as well as an updated digital flight control system. It is very versatile and can also deploy constellations. The Soyuz has had 16 launches from the Guiana Space Center and 26 launches from the Baikonur Cosmo drome in Kazakhstan with 41 successful missions to the space.
Vega was first introduced in 2012 and is a new generation launch vehicle that has the ability to carry small to medium sized payloads of around 1,500 kilograms. This launch vehicle was developed by Arianespace for the launch of Sun-synchronous Earth observation satellites. Vega also has been a part of 9 launches till now, all of which have been successful.
Blue Origin was founded by Jeff Bezos in 2000. It is a privately funded aerospace manufacturer and sub-orbital spaceflight services company, which is well known for developing space technologies that can help launch vehicles, spacecrafts and rockets to take-off and land vertically in order to access the suborbital and orbital space easily.
Blue Origin has the following launch vehicles:
a. NEW SHEPARD:
This launch vehicle is a reusable rocket system which was named after the first American astronaut to go into space, Alan Shepard. The New Shepard can carry payloads and cargo to the sub orbits of the Earth, and is controlled by on-board computers, instead of human pilots or ground control.
b. BLUE MOON:
Blue Moon is a launch vehicle developed by Blue Origin to carry a wide range of small, medium as well as large payloads to the Moon. It can carry as well as land multiple metric tons of cargo on the surface of the Moon.
c. NEW GLENN:
Named after astronaut John Glenn, New Glenn is a single configuration heavy-lift launch vehicle which, after it is ready, will be able to carry cargo and payloads not just to the Earth's orbits, but also beyond that. The first stage of New Glenn is reusable and is built for 25 missions, in addition to having a high-performance configuration. It can also launch and land in almost 95 percent of weather conditions.
Orbital Sciences Corporation is an American company known for designing, manufacturing and launching space vehicles and rocket systems that are of a small to medium class space for the government, military as well as for commercial use. It is also a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman.
Some of the launch vehicles developed by Orbital Sciences Corporation include:
These are launch vehicles developed for a low-cost access to space for payloads and cargo that are government-sponsored. This vehicle family further includes launch vehicles like the Minotaur I, Minotaur IV, Minotaur V, Minotaur VI as well as Minotaur-C.
The Pegasus is a three-stage launch vehicle that has the ability to carry small satellites weighing up to 1,000 pounds into the low Earth orbits. It is also known for its delta-shaped wing, which helps the vehicle to transfer the satellites into the orbit in just over 10 minutes. It has had 42 missions to date, 37 of which have been successful, and was followed by the Pegasus II.
This is a two-stage launch vehicle which is designed to deliver medium sized payloads into space. Antares is known for using the refurbished Russian engines manufactured during the 1960s and 1970s for the Soviet moon rocket.
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