THE MODERN SPACE RACE

By Alex

The first space race occurred in the 1960s. It was a heated battle between the United States and the now defunct Soviet Union. Now, in 2019 a new heated battle for privatization of space travel has arisen. There are four main competitors.


SpaceXVirginBlue OriginULA
   Founded and run by eccentric billionaire owner Elon Musk, SpaceX is best known for its extremely successful Falcon 9 and launching a car into space on the Falcon Heavy, a variant of the Falcon 9. The Falcon 9 is a 23 story tall twin stage rocket that has a reusable first stage. The Falcon 9 has around half the government contracts for national security and the International Space Station, who they supply. The Falcon 9 is also used in the private sector.   English conglomerate Virgin has two units that deal with space travel. The first, Virgin Galactic, is known for its quad engine, dual body plane, White KnightTwo, which launches an eight seater reusable spacecraft, SpaceShipTwo, from between its wings. At the end on 2018, Virgin launched SpaceShipTwo into sub-orbit with passengers in it for the first time, starting its era of space tourism (only $250,000 a pop!). Virgin’s second branch, Virgin Orbit, plans to launch smaller, lighter cargo rockets from the wing of a 747. Although this is only in prototype stage, it still works and will be somewhat revolutionary, as this is a less expensive way to launch a rocket, by around $70,000,000    Blue Origin, a space flight company run by Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, specializes in suborbital rockets. The first rocket is New Shepard, named after one of the first American astronauts, Alan Shepard. It is nearing the end of its testing stage, and will soon not only carry experiments, but humans. Just like Virgin and SpaceX, the New Shepard is reusable. Blue Origin has a second rocket, although only on paper.They have designed the New Glenn, named after famed astronaut John Glenn. The New Glenn is a is a two stage, 31 story rocket with nine engines. Although it has not yet been built, it has already secured national security contracts and others in the private sector, most likely because it has two times as much storage then any other rocket on the market.     ULA is an acronym for United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between national security contractors Boeing and Lockheed Martin space divisions. They hold the other half of the United States space contracts. They are producers of the Atlas family, and the Delta family, both of which are cargo rockets. ULA is also working on the starliner, a replacement for the cargo pod atop the Atlas 5, so the Atlas  can launch astronauts, and is expected to start ferrying astronauts to the ISS this year, limiting our dependence on Russia’s Soyuz for transportation.

Photo Gallery

The Falcon 9 illuminated at its Vandenberg, CA launchpad.

An under view of Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo, with SpaceShipTwo underneath.

Virgin Orbit’s 747-400 with the LauncherOne attached.

New Shepard illuminated at night at its west Texas launch site.

Blue Origin’s New Shepard flight path. The Karman line is defined as the start of space and you can earn US astronaut wings if you go above it.

Blue Origin’s New Glenn Rocket, as compared to a human (Which is the tiny grey spec in the bottom right corner).

A ULA Delta IV heavy taking off in California

A ULA Delta IV on the launch pad

A ULA Atlas 5 approaching the launch pad. This launch is carrying the Mars probe Curiosity.

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