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Space Transportation Solutions and Innovations
The market for space transportation is growing exponentially. Here in this article, we look at different innovations and solutions to likely problems regarding space transport. The future’s bright with all sorts of interesting ideas.
Space Transportation Basics
Transportation in the area outside of Earth’s atmosphere is a good place to start for a space transportation definition. From private companies to scientific institutions, all sorts of organizations are increasingly dependent on global satellite systems and orbiting instruments, therefore we can expect to see a growing demand for spacecraft able to launch and maintain this technology. When asking yourself ‘what is space transportation’, it is important to remember that it covers a wide range of activities that can range from transporting a payload of 1 kilo to a payload of a large satellite or space station component. For launching small satellites, companies have been primarily buying cargo space in larger launches, like resupply capsules for the International Space Station, that can deploy these instruments at relatively low cost. However, this of course limits the flexibility of when a company is able to launch their satellite. We see increasing use of small spacecraft operated by the private sector, and the future of space transportation is in this developing industry. One has only to look to private-sector innovations like the space tug to see where this industry is heading.
The main difference between small, private launches and the traditional method of piggybacking on the launches of larger institutions is that these smaller launches can be tailored to the specific needs of the client. A company seeking a commercial space transportation solution may control the timing of the launch as well as specific mission parameters. Historically, a micro launch like this could be quite cost-prohibitive, and the price per kilogram would be quite high. However, with improvements in processes, tech, and approaches to engineering, the prospect of contracting a private rocket launch is becoming relatively inexpensive. Currently, most micro launches are priced around $20k - $40k per kilogram, which is markedly cheaper than previous generations of space transportation systems. With the current trends, technology is only going to get cheaper by the year.
The barrier preventing most emerging businesses from accessing space is the prohibitive cost of space a air transportation, yet quickly launching satellites could allow startups and other businesses to rapidly grow. This generation of revenue is vital to the survival of companies in ever more competitive markets, and the space market is becoming ever more competitive by the year. General growth in the space transportation market will also open up opportunities for universities and other scientific institutions with reasonable funding to conduct research and run experiments in the low earth orbit.
Potential hurdles in the future of private space transportation include fierce competition for an unknown future small satellite market, the confidence and trust of clients, and successfully operating at a low price point. Research has shown that the value offered per kilogram in micro launches is competitive; however, the future of the small satellite market is uncertain. All of this will shape the development of space transportation as an industry, and the subsequent technology that will emerge from it. Currently, an important question to ask is which part of the space transportation system is not reusable? This is a big factor in determining the running costs of companies in this sector. Technological elements such as the space tug - a craft used to move an object from one orbit to another - can be used from mission to mission. Being able to reuse elements needed for an operation will lower the end cost to the client, and increase access generally to placing low earth orbit instruments.
The main thing to keep in mind is that the future surrounding space transportation is uncertain. We cannot yet be sure about the future business sector of small satellites nor the future for micro launchers. One thing that can be said for certain is that greater access to space will benefit businesses, scientific research, and technological innovation. With lower costs and more flexible launch schedules, the private sector of space transportation is poised to revolutionize the way we currently initiate and maintain satellites. There is already a tremendous amount of innovative tech and system solutions emerging from this growing industry, and there will certainly be more advancements in the field in the coming years.
What are your thoughts on transportation in space? We’d love to hear about your thoughts and opinions. Reach out to us about them in the comments section below.