Space industry year ahead

From the most extravagant private launches to the most intimate details, big business is beginning to influence every aspect of spaceflight. A modified version Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant could even join a NASA trip around Moon. There are more missions to space that the super-rich have planned. Elon Musk’s SpaceX is also planning to put its colossal 400-foot-tall Starship rocket — intended to eventually reach Mars — into Earth’s orbit for the first time.

Like in the past, federal regulators will be trying to figure out what their role should be in the new era.

Here are some glimpses at the future.

SpaceX, the iconic company in commercial space, was eager to launch a fully-scaled version of its Starship rocket on its first orbital test flight.

The launch would be historic. Starship is expected to outpower all rockets ever made, even the Saturn V rockets which took astronauts to the Moon in the last century.

(NASA is also launching its own new rocket this year — a test mission for the next lunar landing called Artemis 1 — that will make use of a different rocket that also promises to out-power the Saturn V.)

After a few high-altitude test launches in the first half of 2021 of the upper spaceship, the company has been assembling its first full-scale Starship rocket — complete with a gargantuan rocket booster that promises to propel the spaceship into orbit.

Musk had stated that Musk was willing to fly the test flight in July 2013.
However, the back half 2021 was filled of problems. The Federal Aviation Administration (which licenses commercial rocket launches) was conducting an environmental assessment to determine the potential impact of launching a large rocket from rural Texas. The voices of the public were heard during a public comment period that took place in October. Local residents are opposed to this idea stronglyAlso, Some fervent supporters, not necessarily from the region.
Participants in the public comments could dial in from any location. According to a report, most people supported the project moving forward. However, those who claimed to be in the area of SpaceX’s South Texas launch location were opposed. TotalJoey Roulette was then a reporter at The Verge.

SpaceX originally expected to receive the all-clear by 2021’s end, but according to the FAA, environmental assessments will continue at least until February 28, 2022.

The agency CiteThe delay was caused by “the high volume and complexity of the comments submitted” and “discussions with consulting parties and consultation efforts”

Orbital tourism and rocket launches

SpaceX’s Starship program is in limbo. However, it has managed to keep its NASA-sponsored astronaut launches on track.
There are many more. SpaceX Dragon capsule astronauts launched to the International Space Station on April 17, and they are expected to return to Earth in April. New crewThere are four Dragon capsules that will replace them, and they are scheduled to launch on their own Dragon capsules.
SpaceX can sell Dragon flights to anyone with the NASA blessing. The company intends to do this, and will continue its 2021 Inspiration-4 mission with an Axiom-chartered four-person mission. Three businessmen and an ex-astronautTo the International Space Station
How to practice religion could be a big question for some space tourists
SpaceX plans for other countries Tourism flightsSpacecraft to orbit are also being considered, but no firm plans or launch dates have been set.

If Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft is operational, there may be more opportunities to ride in orbit.

Boeing was contracted with SpaceX to build a crew-worthy craft capable of transporting professional astronauts to space. SpaceX can also carry wealthy tourists. Boeing has faced many problems during testing and development. Starliner was recently lifted off the launchpad after problems with the propulsion system were discovered just before the scheduled test flight. According to the company, this was the first uncrewed test flight. Can get off the ground2022, May.

Branson, Bezos, and suborbital tourism

Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson have worked for many years to create spacecraft that can take customers on short, supersonic journeys to the edge. Both billionaires were able to travel to the edge in their respective spacecraft, making their own trips to space in 2021.

Both flights were successful and the men emerged from the spacecraft in custom flight suits. They beamed for the cameras.

Bezos’ successful July launch catapulted the company into a busy rest of the year spent flying some high-profile figures as “honorary guests” — meaning they didn’t have to pay for tickets. Blue Origin, the space tourism company that launched in July, will bring more activity to the planet, but has not yet revealed flight dates or passengers.
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Virgin Galactic faces significant delays, however. Report from the New YorkerBranson’s flight was interrupted by warning lights. The space plane had also traveled 41 seconds beyond its designated airspace. In the midst of a review, all flights were grounded by Federal Aviation Administration. In September, it was concludedVirgin Galactic was given the all clear. The company has delayed the launch of commercial services to Virgin Galactic until the third quarter 2022 due to unrelated technology upgrades.

Already labor issues rising

Blue Origin, however, has not been immune to its own controversies. However, none of these have highlighted safety concerns with the rocket or spacecraft.

A group of 21 employees, current and former, signed a letter claiming that Blue Origin operates a toxic workplace where professional dissent is “actively suppressed.” Blue Origin denied any discrimination or harassment and responded by saying that it will not tolerate them.
The FAA launched a review after being concerned enough by the essay. CNN Business reports that FAA investigators who were assigned to this task were hindered by a dearth of legal protections available for whistleblowers in commercial spaceflight.
CNN Business obtained emails that showed the review was closed, even though investigators never had the opportunity to speak with the anonymous whistleblowers.
The situation again highlighted the complexity of the commercial space industry’s federally designated “learning period” — a designation that effectively Regulators are prohibited from implementing new rulesor exercising the same oversight powers as other industries.
FAA says lack of federal whistleblower protections is 'enormous factor' hindering Blue Origin safety review

The designation will expire in 2023. However, the FAA stated that lawmakers are keeping an eye on the situation and may consider changing it. The entire thing could be the subject for a Government Accountability Office Report. CNN Business obtained emails indicating that the GAO contacted the FAA to get more information on its Blue Origin probe.

Meanwhile, the allegations about Blue Origin’s workplace culture — which were echoed in a separate SpaceX whistleblower essay — has put the commercial space industry under heightened scrutiny.

Unfilled, big and crowded.

Internationally, similar questions are being raised about how to regulate outerspace in an age of commercialization. SpaceX, among others, has launched thousands of satellites to support a new space-based business. Russian government carried out a satellite destruction test — concerns about overcrowding in Earth’s orbit are mounting.
Recent high-profile events highlighted the gravity of the problem. SpaceX Starlink satellites almost collided in China with the Chinese space station. International Space Station (ISS) has had to maneuver around debris multiple times and defunct rockets have fallen uncontrollably from orbit.
For decades, groups within the United Nations have worked to update international agreements governing outer space. However, so far they have not been successful. The effort is getting attention again, thanks to a November 1 resolution, which created an open-ended group that will assess “current threats to space operations”, determine when behavior might be considered irresponsible and’make recommendations about possible norms and rules, principles and responsible behaviors. Contribute to the negotiation of legally binding instrument; including a treaty to stop ‘an arms race within space’,” according to a recent article by two space policy experts.