A spacecraft undergoes testing at Sierra Nevada Space Systems.
Image credit: SNC

Affordable Space Flight Through Mass Production

by michael belfiore

If space flight is ever to become affordable enough to be a mainstream business, two things have to happen.Actually getting to space has to be come an order or two of magnitude cheaper, and satellites and spaceships have to get a whole lot cheaper.

SpaceX is working hard on the first task, as evidenced by its second so-called Grasshopper flight over the weekend. The company is attempting to turn its currently-disposable F9 rockets into reusable F9 Grasshoppers. A reconfigured F9 is hopping just a few feet at a time right now, but the plan is to have the thing flying itself back to base after delivering its cargo to orbit. The rocket will land on its tail, as Jerry Pournelle puts it ”just as God and Robert Heinlein intended rockets to do.”

The other piece of the affordable spaceflight puzzle is also being solved. There’s an emerging class of satellites, in particular, that holds a lot of promise. I’m not talking about Cubesats, those research nanosats with limited capabilities. No, these are fully capable commercial satellites that nevertheless cost a tenth of conventional communications satellites.

Read more: Affordable Space Flight Through Mass Production | Moonandback.

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