Has the missile privatization fulfilled its promise?

Has the missile privatization fulfilled its promise?

  • On Thursday, SpaceX will attempt for the second time to launch its new Starship rocket, which is intended to accompany missions to the Moon and Mars.
  • A change in the dimensions of private launch pads, until then limited mainly to launching satellites into orbit for a few years.
  • But between delayed programs, declining research funding, and hopes placed in space tourism, has the privatization of space access delivered on all of its promises?

HoustonWell, we have a problem. »With the failure of the launch of the Vega C missile in December and the scheduled end of its lifeAriadne 5Europe, which has slowed the arrival of the Ariane 6 variant, will soon find itself short of launch pads. And with Virgin Orbit’s bankruptcy in early April, he condemned it LauncherOne task failedIt’s another way to send its own small satellites into orbit without relying on another dying nation. There’s still New Zealand’s RocketLab small launcher project, and SpaceX’s Falcon 9 for more traditional missions. For a larger view, it is also an orientation SpaceX You have to turn, with the first launch of the Starship expected on Thursday, after a delay due to technical issues. Therefore, the options are limited. Has privatized access to space delivered on all its promises?

“All launchers have failed,” says former astronaut Jean-François Clervoy, in an interview. 20 minutes. A way to quell expectations about the arrival of the next generation of missiles, whether launched from aircraft or by a super-bomberElon Musk. “The first three launches were failures,” he recalls, “and without an investor to fund the fourth test, Space X does not exist.” The American billionaire had just invented a place that perfectly suited the expectations of the American government.

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cost reduction task

Special launchers born from NASA So you can focus on distant missions “20 years ago, says Jean-François Clervoy. Early steered with a beautiful $900 million envelope for the first contract signed with Elon Musk. In emulation among wealthy enthusiasts, Richard Branson, via Virgo, Jeff Bezos and others, “at their own risk.” For the former French astronaut, privatizing the world of launchers “promotes innovation, reduces the taxpayer share, and creates space ambassadors.”

The next stage of the privatization rocket is to bring private research into public missions…and particularly at home International Space Station. Jean-François Clervoy bluntly declared that “NASA is seeking to acquire private missions to the International Space Station to reduce fixed costs.” The method of “financing public research with private funds,” he says. But beware of putting the cart before the horse, the journey before the mission, and the private before the public. Thus, NASA has planned three missions with Axiom Space, during which an Axiom module must dock with the International Space Station with a mixed crew. The goal: to allow Axiom to conduct its research using the International Space Station’s resources (and space conditions), and for NASA to conduct additional experiments aboard the module.

A new distribution of roles?

A “win-win” exchange takes place under ISS conditions, depending on the compatibility of the slots. Elsewhere, the danger that Libra is tilted too much on the private side is noted. And so, my engineers CNES In the spring of 2022 against new targets and a performance contract, he decried giving up part of space research to the private sector. With €1.5 billion to invest in start-ups, “our role will be to give money to manufacturers without any oversight”, fears Damien Desroches, CGT’s delegate engineer, I was interviewed at the time by France Info. Too much public money given to the private sector, causing some research programs to stop as early as 2022, such as the C3IEL project, a small satellite developed using Israel.

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For its part, the Cnes administration confirmed that it is aiming for missions towards Mars. Thus, it is the sharing of space between nations and the private sector that is beginning to take shape: corporations take off and fly until satellites are put into orbit, and public agencies major research missions behind them. This leaves a full latitude of access marketing to the frontiers of space. “he will not be there democratization of space ”, moderate Jean-François Clervoy,“ a ticket will never be less than a million euros ”for simple reasons of fuel, infrastructure and the cost of the capsule. Therefore, treating yourself to a flight into space will still be “reserved for very rich and daring people.” Three of them already want to board the Starship and go to Beyond the International Space Station: American billionaire Jared Isaacman, who will be part of the Starship’s first manned flight, Yusaku Mayawasa and Dennis Tito, who dream of going around moon. In a private rocket, will space agencies be able to reserve all seats for a long time?

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