Every spaceship and astronaut flying to the stars comes at costs that burn billions of dollars each year. We might think that governments, specifically the US, have more to spare, but there’s only so much to be spent before the higher-ups decide it’s too much.
And while agencies like NASA do a lot of exploratory work for science and humankind, they still have to stay well within the budget and avoid spending unnecessary dollars.
So, that pretty much knocks commercial space travel out of the options—or not. In the past few years, one company has dedicated sufficient time and effort to make what the average person perceives impossible possible.
True, space travel will not be as affordable as commercial flights anytime soon, but we can definitely hope to fly out sooner than we think with this company’s progress.
This company is SpaceX, and it has done a lot to change the future of space travel for non-astronauts all over the world.
All About SpaceX
You’ve probably already heard about SpaceX, given the company’s aggressive efforts in making commercial space travel possible. And, of course, who could ever miss the company’s CEO—Elon Musk—who has been making lots of headlines recently.
SpaceX is simply an advanced rocket and spacecraft designer, manufacturer, and launcher. Elon Musk founded the company in 2002, and his goal was to lessen the cost of space travel to make colonization on Mars possible.
It was in 2008 that the company made history when Falcon 1 reached the Earth’s orbit. This was the first-ever liquid fuel rocket to be privately made. Since then, the company has had over 113 launches, 75 landings, and 55 reflown rockets—more of this later.
People believe that space travel is possible because SpaceX made it possible for a private spacecraft to visit the space station in April 2012.
The path to space is clear with SpaceX, and it’s only a matter of time before we can all see what the stars look like up close.
The Real Costs of Space Travel
As easy as SpaceX makes it look, it wasn’t all sunny and bright for the company. It had its fair share of challenges, just like every other air and space agency in the world. Space travels come with a specific set of costs that you just can’t cut down if you want to be successful.
When scientists started sending out people to explore the moon and other heavenly bodies between 1970 and 2000, it would cost them approximately $18,500 per kilogram. Keep in mind, the spacecraft weighed about 15 to 50 tons that time!
Operations for space shuttle launches back then would reach $1.5 billion, which is why necessary calculations and studies have to be done to ensure nothing goes wrong.
The monetary constraints to space travel have made it nearly impossible to commercially offer flights to people unless you were absolutely part of the top 1% who can afford to pay a billion dollars for a trip to space.
So, before SpaceX’s efforts, the only way up was to become an astronaut, and even that had its own set of hurdles.
How Spacex Makes Commercial Space Travel Possible
To Elon Musk, this constraint only made the idea of commercial space travel more attractive. His goal to lowering the costs and making it happen would be the main reason why so many affordable yet successful launches happened in the past decade.
When SpaceX launched Falcon 9 in February 2018, it only cost them about $2,800 per kilogram. That’s about 6.6 times cheaper than what it used to cost space travel before. The spacecraft was record-breaking as it only spent $90 million to launch a 70-ton spacecraft.
So, what was SpaceX’s strategy at lowering costs?
It’s actually a simple concept. It’ recovering and reusing most of the rocket and vehicle used during the launch.
Building a spacecraft from scratch incurs costs, and discarding it would basically throw away all those dollars. Apart from the recovery and reuse, there have been significant efforts in modifying fuel and engines to further lower costs.
SpaceX is also currently developing Starship, which is being designed to carry 100 passengers to space.
What used to cost billions of dollars has been cut in more than half, which lights the way to commercial space travel. Who knows, maybe we’ll all get to see the stars, right?