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A space vacay might be closer than you think

Updated: Aug 28, 2020

SpaceX, the private rocket company founded by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, is set to launch NASA astronauts from US soil for the first time in nine years. While the May 27 launch was postponed less than 17 minutes before lift off due to poor weather, a new date has been set for what signifies a massive milestone in the commercialisation of space.

Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will (eventually) take off in a Crew Dragon capsule from Florida, bound for the International Space Station. The SpaceX launch is causing a stir, because NASA last sent astronauts into space on a craft of its own nine years ago. It has relied since on Russian spacecraft, while betting on private companies like Boeing and SpaceX to develop new vehicles.

The SpaceX launch will pave the way for more companies to break through the ozone layer. NASA is not alone in believing the future of space, specifically low-earth orbit, consists of chartered flights on private spacecraft. In addition, the Crew Dragon is the cheapest spacecraft ever made. Quartz’s Tim Fernholz writes, “that is a paradigm shift that promises a whole new world of economic activity in space, with private organizations doing what once required an entire nation, creating new opportunities for experimentation and discovery.”

This could also signify one giant leap for the Australian space business. According to local experts, the Australian Space agency can now set its sights on a cheaper launch and focus on commercialisation of space in a way few thought possible. The agency has enormous expectations – aiming to triple the space sector’s contribution to GDP from $3.9 billion in 2018 to $12 billion by 2030, creating an extra 20,000 jobs in that time. Smaller, local companies continue to emerge also, including Neumann Space, which makes electric propulsion systems for satellites. Should it go smoothly, it seems certain the SpaceX voyage will highlight how industry and government can work together in the race to space. Whether a trip on board spacecraft will be out of reach for anyone but the super wealthy, at least for a number of years, remains to be seen.

Molly Bruce

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