"Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before!"
We thought we'd start off with those famous words by Captain Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation as nobody does space travel better (fictionally, of course) than they do. It seems like a far-fetched idea for average people like us to travel to space. However, 20 companies are currently working on their technology that may soon make it possible for more humans to experience space travel and to send unmanned spacecraft for innovative cosmic explorations.
No surprises here as SpaceX constantly make headlines worldwide by successfully conducting innovative space missions all year round. Founded by Elon Musk, the company is a world-leader in designing, manufacturing, and launching advanced rockets and spacecraft. SpaceX aims to revolutionize space technology to make it possible for our civilization to live on other planets. As early as 2018, SpaceX will send a crew to travel to space as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program.
SpaceIL is a non-governmental team from Israel currently taking part in the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition: a modern race to the Moon. Beyond the competition, however, SpaceIL has the goal of inspiring the next generation of Israelis to explore space. The group wants to do this by using the future success story of their spacecraft.
In order to win the competition, SpaceIL has three major tasks to accomplish.
- Softly land the unmanned spacecraft on the Moon's surface without crashing.
- Roam around 500 meters on, above, or below the surface of the Moon.
- Transmit high definition video and pictures back to Earth.
[Image Source: SpaceIL via Facebook]
Dubbed as the world's first "spaceline," Virgin Galactic ultimate's goal is to make space accessible to more people. This goes hand in hand with wanting to conduct other meaningful space explorations. Since the space race began in the 1960s, only 559 people have been to space. Virgin Galactic is working to open the vast cosmic arena to the rest of us. "Our purpose is to become the spaceline for Earth; democratizing access to space for the benefit of life on Earth," said the spaceline.
[Image Source: Virgin Galactic]
Founded by Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin is a privately-funded aerospace manufacturer and spaceflight service. They work on developing technologies that would allow private human space travel at low cost and increased reliability. Blue Origin is driven by the motto "Gradatim Ferociter" or "step by step, ferociously." Their incremental development process builds upon each of the company's success as they continuously develop ground-breaking spaceflight systems.
This is the world's first private commercial space station. Axiom Space wants to build an international and privately-owned space station that will be the successor of the ISS (International Space Station). The company offers services for a number of various sectors such as for sovereign astronaut missions, space tourist missions, on-orbit research, on-orbit manufacturing, space exploration systems testing, and academic research and outreach programs.
[Image Source: Axiom Space]
Space Nation is a space media company from Helsinki, Finland who took a leading role in the global space boom as they announced the launch of the Space Nation Astronaut Program that is available to everyone. The Finnish start-up envisions a nation of space citizens by liberating space discovery, education, and wellness. You can sign up for free to their astronaut program and unearth your potential for space discovery.
[Image Source: Space Nation]
Deep Space Industries (DSI)
Deviating from most of the space companies here, DSI is an asteroid mining company that develop technologies to find, harvest, and supply the asteroid resources that will innovate the space economy. Asteroids in the C-group category are rich in water and other important elements like organic carbon, sulfur, nitrogen, and phosphorus as well as ferrous metals. DSI plans to send bespoke robotic spacecraft to extract water resources from identified asteroids using their next generation Comet water thruster. The extracted water can also be used as a propellant for the return trip.
"Think beyond tomorrow" is the aerospace company's motto, who sent the first expandable activity module to the International Space Station. Bigelow Aerospace is working on the XBASE (Expandable Bigelow Advanced Station Enhancement) for low-Earth orbit and deep space missions. Bigelow's technology is similar to steel belt protection in tires giving their pressurized soft-goods high strength qualities. So far, one of their spacecraft is in orbit on ISS and two have already retired. They are currently developing two next-generation spacecraft for futuristic space missions.
Vulcan Aerospace was founded by Microsoft's Paul Allen and is out on a mission to find solutions to some of the world's most difficult challenges. The company's recent endeavor to reach space is with their recently revealed rocket-launching aircraft called Stratolaunch. The aircraft aims to provide convenient, reliable, and routine access to low Earth orbit. Inspired by space heroes like John Glenn and Alan Shepard, Allen in ultimately working to expand human access to space and improve our civilization's way of working and living.
[Image Source: Vulcan Aerospace]
Odyne Space has a simple mission -- launching effective and reliable micro- and nano-satellites to space orbit. The company's goal is to support and build the off-earth economy by providing intelligent, motivated entrepreneurs ways to immediately execute their business plans on orbit. "We are passionate about seeing humanity become a space-faring society," the company noted. "We will be the infrastructure of the new, space economy."
Rocket Lab's mission is to "remove barriers to commercial space." That's what they just attempted to do by launching Electron -- a 3D printed battery-powered rocket -- into space. The company wants to provide frequent launch opportunities to low Earth orbit in order to achieve its primary mission. So far, Rocket Lab has delivered a number of rocket systems and technologies for fast and affordable payload deployment.
[Image Source: Rocket Lab]
This company is promising the ultimate fantasy of space travel. "Floating up more than 100,000 feet within the layers of the atmosphere, you will be safely and securely sailing at the very threshold of the heavens, skimming the edge of space for hours," the company said. World View is currently working hard to develop their Stratollite technology in order to pioneer private space explorations. Their ultimate goal is to offer an affordable, safe, and gentle way for humans to travel to near-space for an unparalleled space experience. This is definitely one to watch out for.
Firefly's primary focus is to create the world's best and low-cost light satellite launch vehicle. They are working to provide affordable, high-performance space launch capability for considerably small satellite markets. More often than not, these smaller markets have to settle for secondary payload launches and Firefly aims to innovate that under-served industry.
Extending the human presence across the solar system is Masten Space Systems' ultimate goal and they are working on this by developing their entry, descent, and landing technologies (EDL). This technology is of paramount importance for spacecraft on a mission to land on other planets and celestial bodies. They are currently developing a lunar spacecraft that can deliver up to 10 tons of payload to the Moon's surface.
[Image Source: Masten Space Systems]
Dedicated to both payload and human space travel applications, XCOR Aerospace is a pioneer in the fast development of reusable rocket engines. The company is developing and producing affordable engines and vehicles with low service requirements to make the dream of space missions a reality, as well as to open new opportunities across the space market.
A joint venture between The Boeing Company and Lockheed Martin, ULA provides reliable and cost-efficient space launch services to multiple branches of the US government. The company has made their presence known in outer space for more than 50 years now, delivering payloads such as weather, telecommunications, and national security satellites. They are also involved in sending spacecraft to conduct interplanetary explorations and deep space missions in order to enhance our understanding of the universe.
[Image Source: United Launch Alliance]
Boeing's Phantom Express spaceplane is intended to innovate space travel and cosmic missions for both their commercial and government clients. The company is developing this spaceplane to provide rapid, aircraft-like access to space. Their outlook on the future is to make space travel our civilization's mission saying, "Boeing has and will take humans and technology farther than they’ve ever been".
[Image Source: The Boeing Company]
Space Adventures offer space travels to everyone and has completed a total of 8 flights to the ISS for their private clients. Those private clients have flown to the ISS aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, and have dwelled alongside professional astronauts for 10 days or more. Clients were able to marvel the Earth from 250 miles above while traveling at 17,500 mph in a weightless environment inside the spacecraft. The company is inviting everyone to experience space and become one of the first 600 people to have ever flown to space. Get in touch with them by clicking here.
[Image Source: Space Adventures]
SNC's technologies are applied in a wide range of applications like in telemedicine, navigation and guidance systems, threat detection and security, commercial aviation, scientific research, and infrastructure protection. One of their most popular spacecraft is the Dream Chaser, a reusable vehicle for multi-mission, commercial, and transportation services to low-Earth orbit destinations.
Reaching for the stars is the company's daily business as they design, develop, and operate major space systems. Currently, Airbus is developing and building the European Service Module (ESM). That will power the Orion capsule and its crew towards deeper into space and beyond what has previously been reached. The Orion is the next-generation NASA spacecraft designed for manned space missions beyond low-Earth orbit. It includes destinations like the Moon, Mars, and asteroids.
Space travel is the future
A lot of these companies promise to make space travel affordable for ordinary people like us. However, they have not disclosed how much roughly it will cost to privately embark on a space odyssey. It is indeed exciting to think that one day, you and I could just take a short holiday to space. Space travel is something that was beyond our imagination before. Now, we can confidently hope that all of these endeavors will be a reality during our lifetime.
Think we left out a company working toward space travel for all? Feel free to let us know in the comments below!