Skylon - The Future of Space Travel

While several private companies have been working around the clock to be one of the most pivotal companies in the world to fund space travel, Reaction Engines Limited based out of Britain has taken a different approach to what they see is technology that could change the world. Their space plane, the Skylon Spacecraft is designed to be a single stage rocket that uses a combined cycle and air breathing to reach space. There are lots of technologies that are being looked at for spacecrafts within the private sector, but there are several reasons why this one make work best out of all of them.

Reusable

Several components of NASA’s space shuttles were only usable one time. Rocket boosters, which were usually ejected from the craft in upper orbit only received one use before they had to be reconstructed. Additionally, each spacecraft was only designed to handle a little more than a dozen flights, at which point it had to be revamped or simply torn down. The Skylon spacecraft is capable of handling up to 200 flights, which significantly lowers the cost of a single payload, especially when the estimated cost for one spacecraft is going to be about 12 billion dollars.

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SpaceX - The Start of Private Investment in Space

Tuesday marked the end of a historical era for spaceflight, but also marked the beginning of an era for more exciting and possibly further reaching than we’ve ever seen in history. A company known as SpaceX, or Space Exploration Technologies Corporation launched a Falcon 9 rocket into space carrying an unmanned capsule known as Dragon from the Cape Canaveral launch pad normally used by NASA. While it may not be the first time that a company has launched a ship into space, it is the first time that one has launched one for the purpose of docking or even partnering with NASA to allow the companies to take over the funding of space exploration.

SpaceX has a long way to go before they work out an even more elaborate partnership with NASA, but Falcon 9 is the first major step in accomplishing anything, now that NASA’s space shuttle program has finally been put to rest. The next step for Falcon 9 is to get the Dragon capsule within about 1.5 miles of the permanently manned space station. From there, the International Space Station will work to pull it in with the help of a robotic arm. If all goes well, SpaceX will be hailed as a pioneer, as the shuttles of NASA were becoming old by today’s standards. Modern technology is going to play a vital role in the success of any company’s private efforts to launch manned shuttles into space.

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Close Encounter: Huge Asteroid to Pass Within 201,000 Miles of Earth

A huge asteroid is set to pass close to earth. This asteroid is set to pass about 201,000 miles of the surface of earth. This is not the first time that the Earth has had a close encounter with a asteroid. Scientist claim that there is absolutely no way that the asteroid will crash into earth.

This brings up a broader question about the safety and security of the people that reside on earth. Is it possible that the earth could eventually find itself in a situation where a asteroid of this size crashes into its surface. The answer is yes, but scientists do not see this situation happen for centuries.

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DARPA's Phoenix Program

Satellites that reach the end of their useful lives are often boosted into a "graveyard" orbit in order to make way for replacements. Now, DARPA has proposed a grave-robbing robot that could stitch together parts from these dead satellites to create new ones, avoiding the huge expense of launching components into space.

DARPA's Phoenix program aims to re-purpose ground-based robotic systems, such as those used by surgeons to operate on remote patients, allowing a person on the ground to dissemble satellites and reuse expensive parts such as antennas. The program will also develop a new kind of nanosatellite that hitchs a ride aboard a normal satellite launch vehicle and ejects once it reaches the correct orbit. The grave-robbing robot can then scoop up these nanosatellites and attach them to an old antenna to create a new low-cost communications platform.

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Dream Chaser

The Dream Chaser, a reusable space plane currently under development by Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), is to undergo high altitude drop tests in 2012 following a 25.6 million US dollar boost from NASA to top-off the 80 million US dollar contract awarded earlier this year. But it won't be chasing just any dream. With the retirement of the Space Shuttle Program this year, the very tangible goal is to deliver a low-cost, safe alternative for transporting astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station and other low Earth orbit destinations.

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