Monday, October 21, 2013

All the pieces ready for George Jetson's tea at space restaurant...

Techtrepreneurs have done it again...and in a huge way. Space-X's grasshopper reusable test rocket took its eighth and last test flight on Monday, October 7th.

So what's so amazing about a rocket flying upward? After all, rocket scientists have been successfully launching tubes for decades.

The accomplishment is in the words "reusable" and "eighth." Until now, commercial rockets have been considered disposable. After all, without wings and bereft of fuel, what else can a multi-ton, ten-story tall vehicle do but fall back to earth?

Elon Musk, CEO of both Space-X and Tesla Motors, has committed himself and his fortune to changing all of that. As he explains, for mankind to successfully become a multi-planetary species, we must first learn how to access space safely and affordably.

Before Elon and Space-X stepped into what had largely been a government arena back in 2002, space-bound rockets cost approximately sixty million dollars each and were expected to completely burn up or land charred and useless in the ocean upon reentry to our atmosphere.

Imagine if every time we took a flight from the United States to Europe that we had to destroy the plane. Just how far along do you imagine intercontinental air travel would have gotten?

So, Space-X has been working diligently to build a reusable rocket...and they are almost there. The Grasshopper rocket soared 2,500 feet--a full half mile--into the air on Monday, October 7th, and successfully returned to its launch pad. Simultaneously, Space-X has been doing in-space re-ignition tests on their Falcon rockets, and Elon Musk has recently stated that his company now has all the basics needed to launch a rocket into space and return it safely to earth for reuse.

Now some would say that the space shuttles were already reusable...but not really. It took months, years sometimes, to renovate a returned space shuttle, and those repairs ran up bills of literally hundreds of millions of dollars. It was actually costing NASA more to reuse a space shuttle than it would have to simply send our astronauts up in freshly minted rocket ships.

No, what Space-X is talking about is new and breathtakingly revolutionary. They are potentially months away from launching the first fully reusable rocket ship into space, which means that for the first time mankind will be able to reach orbit for slightly more than the cost of fuel ($200,000) instead of the astronomical replacement cost of a complete ship.

Another company, Bigelow Space, has an entire collection of inflatable, orbital buildings ready for launch, and Space-X has contracts to take several of them skyward within the next few years. Since Bigelow Space is owned by a hotel chain billionaire, it's easy to understand how a George Jetson-style luncheon is not far from reality.