In the future, SpaceX will either be able to charge higher prices and realize higher profit margins for its superior reliability, or ULA will have to reduce its reliability premium and lower its prices. And if ULA cuts prices, it will inevitably impact the profit margins of the company`s two owners, Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Collins Aerospace, the arms company`s subsidiary, is leading the design of the space technology. While they support NASA`s communications protocols for the James Webb Telescope, Collins Aerospace has other critical projects underway. Currently, the aerospace company is testing thermoplastic composites that would reduce the weight and manufacturing costs of spacecraft. Take Rocket Lab, which is probably the most successful commercial rocket company in the launch market today, after SpaceX. Los Angeles-based Rocket Lab launched 17 missions and deployed more than 100 satellites after moving its headquarters from New Zealand. The company was recently awarded a contract to design two spacecraft for a science mission to Mars. It has also lost about $85 million over the past two years and a missile failed in mid-May. Ars Technica, which investigated the extensive proxy document released by Rocket Lab, cited an independent auditor in the report expressing “significant doubts” about the company`s “ability to continue operating.” And it is one of the most successful suppliers of small satellite launches operating today. By the way, most of these launches used the venerable Atlas V rocket. Designed and launched by Lockheed Martin in 2002 (actually before the creation of ULA), Atlas V flew 91 times without a single mission error and helped ULA maintain its 100% mission success record. General Dynamics has four business units, one of which focuses on aerospace engineering.
With its extensive experience building the Atlas family of rockets, which helped launch missions to Mercury, the company continues to advance the space industry. They are currently helping NASA communicate with the Perseverance rover on Mars. Most of these companies are realistically years (or never) away from an actual commercial launch, except perhaps ABL and Isar. However, we can glean valuable insights from this list, in terms of where the launch industry is heading (outside of space). Launch systems are becoming increasingly modular and mobile, with less need for dedicated infrastructure, which should reduce costs. The widespread adoption of 3D printing is another trend to watch and a validation of manufacturing technology in general. Big rocket companies like Rocket Lab probably have little to fear from these emerging startups just yet, but they need to adapt to stay competitive in the long run. SpaceX is arguably the best-known private space company. The company has generated a lot of hype since its inception in 2002 by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk. Founded in 1939 as a division of Boeing, the aerospace and defense company has a long history in space and exploration. They have been working with NASA since the agency`s inception, helping them design the lunar rover, Saturn V first stage, and space shuttle, among others.
The division contributes a significant portion of Boeing`s revenue; With more than 50,000 employees, the division earns more than $20 billion annually. At least for now, space tourism remains the domain of the Midases and market experts among us. As of January 2012, only seven individuals had flown into space, and each paid tens of millions of dollars for their ticket to the International Space Station aboard a Russian rocket [source: Chang]. Nevertheless, their determination to harness their wealth for space travel suggests that such a market exists – a necessary first step to eventually establishing affordable space travel. India has been boasting of its own space program for over 50 years and is just one of the few countries to have sent a successful mission to Mars. A few rocket start-ups that are part of India`s booming commercial space industry have recently raised funds. Blue Origin also developed the BE-4 rocket engine. They plan to sell this engine to various other rocket manufacturers. In the case of the United Launch Alliance – the space launch joint venture formed in 2006 by Boeing (BA -0.25%) and Lockheed Martin (LMT -0.30%) – “success” was a selling point, a marketing tool, and a big reason why ULA was able to charge the U.S.
government up to $400 million for a single rocket launch. Once considered a black horse, SpaceX rose to the top of the pack in the years following Dragon`s historic orbit. With the execution of its $1.6 billion contract with NASA to transport cargo to the International Space Station (ISS), the company set another record, becoming the first private spacecraft to send an unmanned spacecraft to the ISS [sources: Kramer; MSNBC]. The company works on several projects and is the prime contractor for Virgin Galactic`s rocket engines. They also designed several spacecraft for NASA and the Air Force. In addition, SNC has plans for a space drone and an aerial truck. Meanwhile, United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, continues to build Atlas V rockets, the platform on which several commercial companies plan to launch their spaceplanes or crew capsules. The main rocket guarantees the United Launch Alliance a future seat at the table – that and ULA`s 75 successful launches since its inception in 2006 (40 of which were Atlas V vehicles) [source: United Launch Alliance]. A better question might be why they fly. Think of a rocket as an egg or, more precisely, an eggshell. Think of fuel as egg white and yolk. The Saturn V, the largest rocket ever built, cost £6.5 million at launch, including £5.5 million in fuel.
It is essentially a bomb, designed to carry out a controlled explosion. The forces involved in igniting a rocket – in terms of chemistry, physics, speed and drag – can be colossally destructive. Only if you control them within extremely tight tolerances is every start successful. SpaceX`s explosion in June was reportedly caused by a faulty strut in the rocket`s second stage, which allowed a high-pressure helium craft to detach and crash it through a nearby liquid oxygen tank. The company described the result as an “overpressure event,” which essentially means everything exploded. It is true that these things inevitably happen in the space game. It`s also true that you can`t stay in this game if you can`t minimize these risks. As quiet as the company was, its whispers made NASA sit down and take note. The space agency has allocated $22 million for the second cycle of development of the commercial crew of the strut vehicle, in addition to the $3.7 million from the first round that Blue Origin had previously granted to support the development of a launch exhaust system (LES) and a composite pressure vessel for structural testing. Elon Musk has made it his dream to establish a colony on Mars, and he is creating the dream through his company SpaceX. SpaceX is a privately held American aerospace manufacturer headquartered in Hawthorne, California. It has made more than 100 launches on its manifesto, which equates to about $12 billion in contract revenue.
Blue Origin has support where it counts: in Congress. This leverage came in handy when the company filed a complaint in September 2013 with the Government Accountability Office against NASA`s bidding process for Launch Pad 39A. The company raised concerns that a single company could monopolize the platform and give it an unfair competitive advantage [source: Boyle]. Blue Origin announced an orbital rocket called New Glenn in 2016. This rocket will also be reusable like the previous New Shepard rocket. The company has won a number of customers by using its rocket to launch satellites. Very close – maybe. The company used its Dragon spacecraft to make unmanned cargo trips to the ISS. The Dragon was designed with crew compatibility in mind, meaning the ship has already proven its basic spacing ability, although it still has a long way to go before its life support systems are proven.
Both SpaceX and Boeing are expected to begin manned flights to the ISS in 2017, and NASA has already named the first astronauts to fly in the new spacecraft. The 2017 goal could slip and the explosion of one of SpaceX`s cargo rockets during its launch in June was not good news for the company. The recent launch of the Falcon 9, even without the vertical landing of the first stage, was a confidence boost.