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The Space Sector is Really Beginning to Take Off

Tuesday, November 8, 2022
Categories : Market Trends
Once reserved for organizations like NASA, space travel is becoming much more mainstream. In fact, according to Forbes magazine, there are more than 10,000 companies around the world competing to give people access to space at unprecedented levels.  And more than half of these companies are based in the United States.

In his article, John Koetsier, Senior Contributor of Forbes writes, “Competition between these companies has led the value of space-focused companies to cross the $4 trillion USD mark for the first time ever and is a key factor in reducing launch to orbit cost by almost two orders of magnitude in the past 20 years.”

The United States has historically led the way in investment in space. In fact, the US government’s space budget is nearly $41 billion, more than half focused on NASA alone.  But private businesses are making the greatest strides in bringing operating costs down. Compare SpaceX’s Starship at $500/kilogram vs. a cost of $20,000/kilogram to operate the NASA Space Shuttle.

While the biggest area of growth is in satellites and communications technology, the move toward space travel is becoming increasingly viable. In this article, we’ll touch on a few of the biggest brands that have been working for decades to make space travel more accessible.

Billionaires Take the First Step in Privatized Space Technology
Many of the first private space technology companies began as a personal playground of billionaire entrepreneurs, with three of the world’s richest men founding their companies within years of each other. 

Elon Musk's SpaceX
Founded in 2002 with the goal of reducing space transportation costs and making colonization of Mars possible, SpaceX is one of the most visible non-government commercial space technology companies. Since its inception, the company has gained worldwide recognition for key milestones that have sparked a renewed interest in space travel and space technology and is the only private company capable of returning a spacecraft from low-Earth orbit. In 2012, its Dragon spacecraft became the first commercial spacecraft to deliver cargo to and from the International Space Station. And in 2020, SpaceX became the first private company to take humans into space as well. According to SpaceX, the company has had 187 launches, 149 landings, and 124 reflights.

SpaceX headquarters in December 2017 SpaceX headquarters in December 2017 with plumes from a flight of a Falcon 9 rocket visible overhead.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic
Founded in 2004 by British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic grew out of an effort in the early 2000s by famed aircraft designer Burt Rutan and his company Scaled Composites to win the Ansari X Prize — a $10 million award to the first private organization to launch a craft into space twice within two weeks. Rutan's effort, unveiled in 2003, was SpaceShipOne. After years of setbacks, VSS Unity completed its first flight, a successful glide test, in December 2016. The glide lasted ten minutes. On July 11, 2021, Virgin Galactic became the first spaceflight company to independently launch a founder of the company into space, using the 50-mile high definition of space, having flown founder Richard Branson above the 50-mile mark. Branson, three other employee passengers, and the two pilots experienced approximately three minutes of weightlessness above Earth’s atmosphere. 

In a recent blog post, we looked more in-depth at some of the companies on the forefront of these trends, and the impact this might have on the global supply chain over the next decade.

Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity was the first private aircraft to fly a company’s founder into space Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity was the first private aircraft to fly a company’s founder into space.

Jess Bezo’s Blue Origin
In 2000, Jeff Bezos founded Blue Origin with the goal of making access to space less expensive and more reliable using reusable launch vehicles. On July 20, 2021, the company successfully flew its first crew mission. And later that year, Blue Origin made news when it sent William Shatner, who is best known for playing Captain Kirk in the Star Trek series, into space.  Blue Origin’s efforts include flying astronauts to space on New Shepard. The business is also producing reusable liquid rocket engines, developing an orbital launch vehicle with New Glenn, building next-generation space habitats, and returning to the surface of the Moon. According to the company, the program has flown 22 successful consecutive missions including three successful escape tests, showing the crew that the escape system can activate safely in any phase of flight.
Blue Origin launching into spaceBlue Origin launching into space with William Shatner on board in July 2021.

Big Brands Are Now Entering the Mix
In addition to billionaire-owned companies, a couple of large, well-known aerospace manufacturers have joined in the efforts to get manned aircraft into space. 

Boeing's Starliner spacecraft is designed to accommodate seven passengers, or a mix of crew and cargo, for missions to low Earth orbit. For the NASA service missions to the ISS, it will carry four passengers and small cargo. Starliner uses a weldless structure and is reusable up to 10 times with a six-month turnaround time. Boeing plans to alternate between two reusable crew modules for all planned Starliner missions. Each flight uses a new service module, which provides propulsion and power-generation capacity for the spacecraft. It features wireless Internet and tablet technology for crew interfaces.

Boeing’s Starliner SC-2 approaching the International Space Station in May 2022.Boeing’s Starliner SC-2 approaching the International Space Station in May 2022.

Airbus Defence and Space Spaceplane is a suborbital spaceplane concept for carrying space tourists, proposed by Airbus, Defence, and Space. A full-size mockup was officially unveiled in Paris, France, on 13 June 2007, and is now on display in the Concorde Hall of the Musée de l'Air et de l'Espace. The project was the first space tourism entry by a major aerospace contractor. Although the plane underwent an in-atmosphere flight test in 2014, Airbus has not yet released a launch date. 

When thousands of hermetically sealed components are needed for a single aircraft, finding the right partner to support your supply chain needs can help OEMs develop cost-effective electric aviation strategies and introduce greater flexibility around their cost base. 

Blue Origin launching into space with William Shatner on board in July 2021 A rendering of the Airbus Defence and Space Spaceplane hovering above Earth's atmosphere. This was one of the first space tourism projects by a major aerospace contractor.
Prepare for the Future with a Partner That Can Meet Your Supply Chain Needs
Expansion of industries, like what we’re seeing in the space sector, brings with it the need for more products which could, in turn, potentially disrupt an already strained global supply chain. 

When thousands of hermetically sealed components are needed for a single space craft, finding the right partner to support your supply chain needs can help OEMs develop greater flexibility in their production lines.

Our Insider’s Guide to Purchasing Hermetic Connectors will tell you everything you need to know. In this whitepaper, we look more in-depth at what to consider when procuring and purchasing hermetically sealed connectors for extreme aerospace applications, like space.

An Insiders guide to purchasing hermetic connectors for military and aerospace applications

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The SEALTRON factory is Qualified Products Listed (QPL’d) on the most significant Mil spec glass-to-metal-sealed connector types in the aerospace industry. SEALTRON is owned by AMETEK, Inc., a leading global manufacturer of electronic instruments and electromechanical devices.

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