Who, if not SpaceX? Full guide to private space companies

Successes of SpaceX allowed the company Ilona Mask to be constantly on hearing. However, few people know that, for example, SpaceX's main competitors - the American ULA and the French Arianespace - are also private firms. But besides them in the world there are other private owners with interesting projects and promising developments!

In this video, we will not once again raise the topic of the brainchild Mask. We will try to tell you about its possible partners and competitors.

This is a kind of guide to private space companies. Enjoy watching!

SpaceX Ilona Mask has achieved considerable success in the private space: in just ten years, they have turned from guys over whom future competitors have openly laughed into a real monster, devouring commercial orders and performing almost a third of all global launches of this type. And now, competitors say that, they say, “We are considering the possibility of re-use of rocket stages,” they are conducting their tests, or directly reporting plans to create new, reusable models. But since these competitors are not always the largest state associations, today I want to tell you about smaller commercial space fishes - about private space companies.

In this review I will omit plans that are written only on paper. In the same way as we prefer not to talk about the ideas of colonization of Mars voiced by Ilon Mask, I would prefer to tell you only about those companies that have built something, launched something, or at least presented working prototypes. So here we will talk only about, let's call them that, “active” private space companies.

For a start it is worth noting that companies may not be completely private. Because of this, I will break the review into two parts: first, we will talk about those firms, in which some state has a share, and then proceed to fully independent players. At the same time, keep in mind that, for example, in the USA, such players are fully supported by NASA with the help of budget money. But this is still not direct funding, but rather an aid to interesting projects, going as a general line in the budget for all.


Perhaps, it’s worth starting with the largest players: the French company Arianespace has been on the market for almost 25 years. Recently, they have reformatted the management, so now Arianespace is part of the ArianeGroup association - along with the French Airbus again.

Well, I consider it partially private as well, just because a third of the shares of Arianespace belonged to the French state space agency for a long time. Or to the National Space Research Center.

ArianeGroup deals with as many as three areas: space launches, security and defense. But we are interested in the first, the management of which is allotted just Arianespace.
Since the mid-80s, Arianepsace has already made 243 launches. Her Ariane 5 is considered one of the most reliable missiles in history: 81 successful launch in a row! The company has a rocket fleet of three carriers: in fact, heavy Ariane 5, light Vega and the Russian medium Union. Missiles launch from the Guiana Space Center. It is not far from Brazil, if that. Yes, for the sake of the launches of the “Union”, Russian engineers specially arrive there.

To date, the company is provided with 58 orders in advance and is developing its new rocket, Ariane 6. They say that engineers are thinking about creating a separate version of Ariane 6 with the possibility of reusing the first stage. So far there is little information on this subject, but what is known for sure is that the rocket will be produced in two versions: according to logic, for lighter and heavier missions.
It is worth mentioning here the Airbus division, Airbus Defense and Space, which is developing commercial and military satellites. Their satellite platforms are used in orders of various devices: from small, intended for remote sensing of the Earth, to large telecommunication satellites.

Anyway, today Arianespace / ArianeGroup is one of the leaders in the global market of space launches, completing more than 10 orders annually. We have a lot of recordings of their broadcasts on the channel, and, of course, you will also be able to watch future launches with us.

Mitsubish Heavy Industries

Let's jump to Japan. Everybody heard about Mitsubishi. At least, all who saw cars of this brand. But few people know that the company is a huge union of subsidiaries. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is engaged in areas traditional to parental space companies: defense, security, aircraft manufacturing, shipbuilding ... But, as always, we are only interested in rockets and space trucks.

And there are already three of them in the MHI park. Launch vehicle HII-A and H-IIB and transport cargo ships H-II, originally developed by the Japanese Space Agency.
As you probably know, Japan participated in the construction of the International Space Station: it gave money, a whole module (the largest, by the way) otgrohala. Kibo is called, or “hope” in our opinion. So, since 2009, they also send trucks to the ISS, on average, one per year, and now they are scheduled to start up until 2019.
If you go back to the missiles, then here the Japanese are somehow very ... Japanese. Not in the sense that it is obstinate and incomprehensible, but in that it is clear and precise: their first HI has successfully completed 9 launches since 1986, it was replaced by H-II, which sent 5 missions into orbit, which after the first serious failure was sent for revision. And finally, the modifications that followed, H-IIA and H-IIB, which made 40 launches for a couple, plus one unsuccessful one. It is noteworthy that the H-IIB was developed precisely as an even more reliable version of the H-IIA, in order to launch trucks to the ISS. And so far only she was engaged in trucks.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is currently working on the next generation of Launch Vehicle, you can’t guess what it will be called. Well, yes, yes, H3: the first launch is scheduled for 2020, and commissioning, if successful, is scheduled for 2021st.

The fact that the development of launch vehicles and spacecraft Mitsubishi is paid for by the Japanese government does not allow me to include it in the list of completely independent players.

Orbital ATK

From Japan we are moving smoothly to America, where we are trying almost to the end of this review. For starters, in Dulles, Va. This is where the main office of the former Orbital Sciences Corporation, now known as Orbital ATK, is located. The renaming took place after the merger with another large American private trader - Alliant Techsystems, which presented the company with the abbreviation ATK. It would be logical to break our story in two, so I’ll start with Alliant Techsystems.

This company is a real veteran of space development. They collaborated with other giants like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and with scientists, creating more than 10,000 spare parts for the telescope named after James Webb, and even developed solar panels for the Martian landing module InSight, which is planned to be launched next year.

Their GEM boosters are being installed on Delta II and Delta IV rockets, and right now, as part of Orbital ATK, they are working on components of the future Space Launch System, a super-heavy launch vehicle, the first test launch of which is expected at 2019m.
As you can see, ATK was mainly engaged in quite narrow-profile orders: there was a motor to be assembled there, to fasten the solar panel here, simply, qualitatively, but finely. It was the association with Orbital in 2015 that allowed the company to get a permanent customer in the form of itself, and Orbital - to get rid of the need to constantly enter into contracts with contractors, using now Alliant Techsystems production facilities.
The Orbital story is no less saturated than that of SpaceX: its own, though built with the money of the US defense, the Minotaur rocket baby, launched from the Pegasus, lightweight Antares, designed to launch its own Cygnus trucks on the ISS. Participation in the CRS state station commercial procurement program, where Orbital has already twice won and received contracts needed by private traders. And if SpaceX, in addition to launches to the ISS, was able to actively pursue the development of commercial launches on the heavy Falcon 9, then Orbital is worse: the Antares fly only with Cygnus, the Minotaurs are solely in the interests of the US Air Force. And for 27 years, Pegasov was run a little less than forty.

But, to be honest, Orbital ATK does not pretend to much: the company exists precisely for the sake of working on US state programs, the merging of its two component manufacturers has greatly simplified organizational issues, and stable participation in scientific missions, such as work on future telescopes and interplanetary vehicles , prompts that the state will continue to use the services of reliable engineers Orbital ATK.

Well, now let's do completely private space companies.

Fully private companies

United launch alliance

As in the case of conditional private owners, we start with the real giant of the space industry: the merger of two American companies, Boeig and Lockheed Martin. I will deliberately not devote too much attention to ULA, because if we separately consider the success and work of the companies that make it up, we will have to make a separate video, perhaps more than one. My goal is to tell you about smaller players in the market.

However, I just can not fail to mention that before the merger; Boeing, for example, participated in the development of the legendary carrier rocket Saturn V, which delivered American astronauts to the moon. Created a lunar rover, these same astronauts successfully rolled on the satellite. The upper stage, which was used to remove the spacecraft using the Space Shuttles. Launch Vehicles Delta II, Delta III and Delta IV, in partnership with McDonnel Douglas. Spaceships X-37B, which are fully autonomous, fly for three years in orbit, carrying out a mysterious mission commissioned by the US Air Force. Spacecraft Surveyor, Mariner 10, Curiosity, in the end! And I have not yet mentioned the most active participation in the development of the International Space Station and the Unity and Destiney modules built for it. In general, since the beginning of active space exploration by Americans, the privately owned Boeing, better known in the world for its aircraft, has successfully helped NASA in almost all key missions. Do not forget about the platforms for commercial telecommunications satellites, which are used by broadcasters on a par with the previously mentioned platform from Airbus Defense and Space.

Lockheed Martin has an equally impressive track record: working on the Atlas carrier rocket since its second version (at that time General Dynamics, whose division was later sold to Lockheed), was involved in it. Interplanetary missions to the Moon and Mars: MAVEN, Juno, OSIRIS-REx, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter: devices that are now on the ear. Spitzer and Hubble telescopes. Even the GPS program that we all use with you was developed by Lockheed Martin.

In general, everything is clear here and without additional explanations: on the shoulders of ULA, one way or another, most of the historical research missions, including interplanetary missions, lie. Today, they carry out about ten launches per year (and the number of planned ones decreased by almost a third after SpaceX received permission to execute government launches), the company loses private orders, but it’s silly to think that they will give up all their markets without a fight. The main problem here is different - for decades the de facto monopoly of the United Launch Alliance has become a cumbersome and highly bureaucratic company, in many ways similar to other state.
Today’s ULA rocket fleet consists of two families of launch vehicles: Atlas and Delta. Work is underway on a partially reusable Volcano, in addition, the company is participating in the development of the Space Launch System. Well, I can't help but remember about Orion manned spacecraft: they should go to the ISS before 2021. In addition, testing of the piloted CST-100 Starliner, which is produced by Boeing outside the ULA, is expected in December next year.

Again, do not forget that NASA gives near-Earth space to newcomers in the space industry, while contracts for the assembly and launch of interplanetary spacecraft continue to receive ULA at least by inertia. The others, apparently, have not “grown enough” yet.

Bigelow aerospace

Speaking about the plans of ULA, one can not forget about another private American company - Bigelow Aerospace. Yes, we will periodically move away from rocket technology to talk about other areas in space. It is the brainchild of Robert Bigelow (which the billionaire modestly named in his honor) is working on interesting, deployable space modules, one of which is going to launch ULA and Bigelow aerospace to the Moon in the early 2020s.

In the press, such modules are often called “inflatable”, which is incorrect. The design of the expandable room involves its deployment, this process is somewhat similar to the unfolding of a tourist tent. Tent after all you do not inflate?

In general, since the company was founded in 1999, Bigelow aerospace actively began to invent new modules for space: they conducted two successful tests of single chambers Genesis-1 and Genesis 2 in 2006 and 2007, and then began to design a complete BEAM module for International Space Station.
The persistence (and success) of the company convinced NASA of the need to give Bigelow Aerospace at least a chance, and in 2012 a contract was signed. The company has joined forces with Sierra Nevada Corporation, about which we will talk more today, and within three years completed the creation of the module. It was docked to the ISS module "Tranquility" in test mode (that is, sealed, and the team of astronauts several times a year opened it and took measurements), but two years later, when the reliability of the design and materials was confirmed, BEAM was decided to leave orbit and used as a spare warehouse, which allowed the station itself to release several racks for equipment for scientific experiments.

And if BEAM itself is quite small: about 16 cubic meters in volume, then the new Bigelow Aerospace developments look much ... bigger. Firstly, we are talking about the A330 and B330 modules, each of which is about one third of the International Space Station in volume, and inside it looks more like an American Skylab: a large hollow space with instruments in the form of a rod inside. Secondly, it is impossible not to mention the project of the commercial space station Bigelow, which will be assembled from such B330s and small Sundancer modules, which will most likely be used as gateways and docking nodes. The launch is tentatively scheduled for the year 2020, although delays in SpaceX Crew Dragon and Starliner test manned flights, produced by the same Bigelow together with Boeing, can move this date 2-3 years forward. In any case, the project of a private commercial space station is very ambitious, although even today Bigelow has everything necessary for the implementation of this venture. True, to deliver staff and tourists to this space hotel is not on what. So what are waiting: in the next year and a half plans and dates should be significantly clarified.

Blue origin

The company, which is often compared in the press with SpaceX, although, perhaps, they have not much in common. In any case, it was until recently, until Blue Origin, founded by the owner of Amazon's online store, Jeff Bezos, announced the development of its own reusable launch vehicle with its own BE-4 engines.

But if we talk about what Blue Origin has now, then we will only find the New Shepard suborbital single-stage rocket, and the small capsule ship of the same name. All this beauty should serve the interests of the space tourist, allowing people with wide and full pockets to fly into space for a few minutes and then return to Earth. We have witnessed the New Shepard test live: it looks, of course, beautiful, but is more likely to be pampering. Although I also do not want to diminish the success of engineers of a private company.

New Glenn is of much greater interest, especially considering that the omnipresent United Launch Alliance is involved in the development of the BE-4 methane engine. Already, Blue Origin has leased the LC-36 site to the Space Center named after them. Kennedy (that on Cape Canaveral) and gradually preparing the infrastructure for the launch of the future rocket. The availability of commercial contracts for the first launches is also encouraging: the places on New Glenn have already been bought for their satellites by Eutelsat and OneWeb.

In general, Blue Origin quite successfully got into the program of replacing Russian rocket technologies in the USA: BE-4 was developed before the signing of final contracts with the United Launch Alliance, and the presence of an already operating system in the form of New Shepard made it possible to draw additional attention to itself. We can only wait for the beginning of the 2020s: it was then that Vulcan should fly, well, and the tests of the New Glenn rocket will begin. Most likely, Blue Origin will be the first company after SpaceX, capable of fully re-using the first steps of its carriers.

Vector Space Systems

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Rocket Lab

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In this, 2017, began testing its own booster Electron. The first launch was not successful, but already in the second attempt to put into orbit four nanosatellites. If everything goes well, then the Moon Express to the Moon should be launched in 2018 - this will happen within the framework of the Google Lunar XPrize competition. By the way, write in the comments, if you are interested in the topic of the lunar contest from Google, if there are a lot of people willing, we will make a separate video about it.

In general, so far Rocket Lab cannot boast of great achievements, but in the near future the further fate of the company will be known. We include it in this list primarily due to existing developments, our own cosmodrome, and the ability to launch rockets.

Virgin galactic

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Masten Space Systems

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Source: https://habr.com/ru/post/408533/

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