Science & Technology

The New Space Race

In recent times, new companies have focused their efforts on developing aerospace technology in a faster, safer, cheaper, and overall better way. These new efforts are part of the so-called ‘NewSpace’, a movement described by Forbes as “low-cost and visionary commercial space technologies”.

But the concept is more than that. It points to diminishing the barriers to space, including costs; and exploring the countless possibilities offered by space, not just for scientific, political, or military purposes, but for recreation, commercial activity, and more.

NewSpace is based not on the political rivalries that fueled the Cold War-time OldSpace, but on the daring vision of entrepreneurs (or so-called astropreneurs) who are investing on these companies because of their science fiction-based ideals. NewSpace is the product of the imagination of entrepreneurs and is becoming an increasingly popular aspect of space exploration,  with the idea of the colonization of Mars being especially popular.

It comes as an alternative of sorts to the stagnated public space agencies, especially in the US, where NASA represented only 0.489 % of US spending as of 2017, despite repeated promises from President Obama of further investment in aerospace technology. President Trump has shown an interest in retaking that investment, and has worked with heads of NewSpace companies, such as Elon Musk, who recently left Trump’s advisory council over the decision to leave the Paris Accord. Time will tell if President Trump is to invest further in space exploration.

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Meanwhile, private companies are already working on their goals, whether it is putting a man on Mars, establishing a colony on the Moon, or initiating a regular flight schedule for space tourists. Many NewSpace companies now perform missions for government agencies, such as the placement of satellites and the development of spaceports; this novel concept was the inspiration for a public-private program introduced by the UK, awarding £10 million to private companies based in the UK.

Commercially, the space sector is considered a, if not the, booming industry of current times. Experts consider the sector to become the first trillion-dollar industry, and to create the first trillionaire ever from the community of entrepreneurs leading the movement, which include men like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page and many more.

It expects a gigantic leap in the near future, as the test flights are about to begin, and companies like Blue Origin and SpaceX have already done significant progress on their endeavours: the former has completed five vertical take-offs and landings with the same rocket in 2015, while, on March 30, 2017, SpaceX relaunched a previously flown rocket, the Falcon 9, for the first time ever.

This is fundamental, because in order to reduce costs, rockets should be reusable, unlike OldSpace rockets, which were single use-only. Reusing rockets opens the doors for low-cost space exploration, and a potential human arrival on Mars.

The potential of NewSpace is based on its own nature, how it rises from the conjunction between the commercial idea and the curiosity regarding what may hide beyond. OldSpace was motivated not by profit, nor by ideals, but by political objectives and fear of the opposition, but it worked: as long as there was competition.

NewSpace is motivated by itself, by its inherent philosophy. NewSpace’s goals are not just to go to space for the sake of going, to prove a point, or to avoid being spied by; they are going there to explore the endless possibilities and to satisfy their curiosity and their imagination.

They will also to take advantage of the emerging space-tourism market; and of the need for a means to deploy satellites, material and personnel by the government. These Newspace companies are even using their own resources in order to avoid spending taxpayers’ money. Newspace is the future.

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