Three billionaire entrepreneurs – Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Richard Branson – are each vying to usher in a new era of private commercial space travel.
Here is how their rival ventures compare in the race to open up space travel.
Bezos, Branson, and Musk have been investing billions of dollars in their space startups, each promising to ferry paying customers on rides to space – and it will cost a pretty penny to be part of it.
Branson’s Virgin Galactic is reported to have more than 600 ticket reservations already, priced around $250,000 (roughly Rs. 1.8 crores). It expects to begin a full commercial service in 2022 and eventually hopes to slash the ticket price to around $40,000 (roughly Rs. 30 lakhs).
Reuters reported in 2018 that Bezos’ Blue Origin was planning to charge passengers at least $200,000 (roughly Rs. 1.4 crores) for the ride, based on an appraisal of Branson’s rival plans and other considerations, though its thinking may have changed. Blue has not divulged its long-term pricing plans.
An as-yet unidentified person secured one of the seats on Blue’s first suborbital mission, slated for July 20, with a $28 million auction bid.
Musk’s SpaceX has already taken a crew to the International Space Station, and the company has plans to send an all-civilian crew into orbit in September. Musk has also said SpaceX will fly Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa around the moon with its forthcoming Starship rocket in 2023.
Virgin Galactic’s reusable SpaceShipTwo system will see its VSS Unity spaceplane lifted to altitude by a large carrier aircraft called VMS Eve before separating.
Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket-and-capsule combo shoots into suborbital space before separating. The rocket section returns to the launchpad, with the pressurised capsule falls back to earth under parachutes. It features six observation windows – the largest ever used in space.
The SpaceX Dragon capsule sits atop a reusable Falcon rocket which it uses to reach space.
Crew and passengers
Virgin Galactic’s spaceplane can hold six passengers: two crew and four passengers.
Blue Origin’s craft can take six passengers and flies autonomously.
The SpaceX Dragon capsule is capable of carrying up to seven people.
Virgin Galactic boasts a flight time of around 90 minutes from take-off to landing, including several minutes of weightlessness.
Blue Origin’s capsule suborbital flight is around 10 minutes after separation. Again, those on board experience a few minutes of weightlessness and see the curvature of the planet before returning to Earth.
The SpaceX missions are expected to last three to four days from launch to splashdown.
Typical of Branson’s ventures, Virgin Galactic is publicly funded. Its shares peaked at almost $60 (roughly Rs. 4,480) following FAA approval in June 2021.
Blue Origin is privately owned, with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos previously indicating he would sell around $1 billion (roughly Rs. 7,470 crores) in Amazon stock annually to fund the venture.
SpaceX is also privately owned and has raised billions of dollars in successive funding rounds. Key investors include Alphabet and Fidelity. Musk says fees charged for SpaceX’s charter flights will go toward missions to the moon and eventually Mars.
© Thomson Reuters 2021
Aditya L1 Solar Mission Begins Studying Energetic Particles in Solar Wind
After India’s solar mission, Aditya L1 began its journey towards Lagrange point 1 following a key manoeuvre, it has started studying energetic particles in the solar wind from space and will continue to do so for the rest of its life, a senior astrophysicist said. The study of the solar wind, the continuous flow of charged particles from the sun which permeates the solar system, will be carried out with the help of a device named Supra Thermal & Energetic Particle Spectrometer (STEPS), a part of the Aditya Solar wind Particle Experiment (ASPEX) payload.
“STEPS is now working from space. However, it was not sitting idle earlier. It has started functioning from within the magnetic field of the Earth since September 10 when Aditya was 52,000 kilometres above our planet,” Dr Dibyendu Chakrabarty, professor of Space and Atmospheric Sciences at the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) said.
STEPS was developed by the PRL with support from the Space Application Centre (SAC) in Ahmedabad.
“During the travel time of four months (till Aditya L1 reaches its destination), it will study energetic particles in the solar wind. The data will help maintain the health and performance of our space assets in a better way,” Dr Chakrabarty told PTI.
The key aim of STEPS is to study the environment of energetic particles from the spacecraft’s position on the L1 point till it will function, he said. “The data from STEPS in the long term will also help us understand how space weather changes,” the space scientist said.
STEPS comprises six sensors, each observing in different directions and measuring supra-thermal and energetic ions. The data collected during the Earth’s orbits helps scientists to analyse the behaviour of particles surrounding the planet, especially in the presence of its magnetic field.
Aditya-L1, launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on September 2, will go up to the First Lagrangian point, about 1.5 million km from the Earth ISRO on September 18 said on X: “Off to Sun-Earth L1 point! The Trans-Lagrangean Point 1 Insertion (TL1I) manoeuvre is performed successfully. The spacecraft is now on a trajectory that will take it to the Sun-Earth L1 point.” Lagrangian points are where gravitational forces, acting between two objects, balance each other in such a way that the spacecraft can ‘hover’ for a longer period of time.
The L1 point is considered the most significant of the Lagrangian points, for solar observations, which were discovered by mathematician Joseph Louis Lagrange.
Elon Musk’s Neuralink Receives Approval to Start Brain Implant Human Trial
Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk‘s brain-chip startup Neuralink said on Tuesday it has received approval from an independent review board to begin recruitment for the first human trial of its brain implant for paralysis patients.
Those with paralysis due to cervical spinal cord injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis may qualify for the study, it said but did not reveal how many participants would be enrolled in the trial, which will take about six years to complete.
The study will use a robot to surgically place a brain-computer interface (BCI) implant in a region of the brain that controls the intention to move, Neuralink said, adding that its initial goal is to enable people to control a computer cursor or keyboard using their thoughts alone.
The company, which had earlier hoped to receive approval to implant its device in 10 patients, was negotiating a lower number of patients with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after the agency raised safety concerns, according to current and former employees. It is not known how many patients the FDA ultimately approved.
Musk has grand ambitions for Neuralink, saying it would facilitate speedy surgical insertions of its chip devices to treat conditions like obesity, autism, depression and schizophrenia.
In May, the company said it had received clearance from the FDA for its first-in-human clinical trial when it was already under federal scrutiny for its handling of animal testing.
Even if the BCI device proves to be safe for human use, it would still potentially take more than a decade for the startup to secure commercial use clearance for it, according to experts.
© Thomson Reuters 2023
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
ISRO’s Aditya-L1 Performs TL1I Manoeuvre, Set to Reach Sun-Earth L1 Point
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced on Tuesday that its maiden solar mission — Aditya-L1 — has performed the Trans-Lagrangean Point 1 Insertion (TL1I) manoeuvre successfully and the spacecraft was now in a trajectory that will take it to the Sun-Earth L1 point. ISRO also informed that it marked the fifth consecutive time that the ISRO had successfully transferred an object on a trajectory toward another celestial body or location in space.
A post on the ISRO official handle on social media platform X read, “Aditya-L1 Mission | Off to Sun-Earth L1 point | The Trans-Lagrangean Point 1 Insertion (TL1I) manoeuvre is performed successfully. The spacecraft is now on a trajectory that will take it to the Sun-Earth L1 point. It will be injected into an orbit around L1 through a manoeuvre after about 110 days. This is the fifth consecutive time ISRO has successfully transferred an object on a trajectory toward another celestial body or location in space.”
Earlier, a launcher carrying the Aditya-L1 spacecraft blasted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Station at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. The primary objectives of India’s maiden solar mission include collecting scientific data and marking another milestone in India’s solar exploration efforts.
The agency had earlier posted on X, “Aditya-L1 Mission: Aditya-L1 has commenced collecting scientific data. The sensors of the STEPS instrument have begun measuring supra-thermal and energetic ions and electrons at distances greater than 50,000 km from Earth. This data helps scientists analyze the behaviour of particles surrounding Earth. The figure displays variations in the energetic particle environment, collected by one of the units.”
The Supra Thermal and Energetic Particle Spectrometer (STEPS) instrument, a part of the Aditya Solar Wind Particle Experiment (ASPEX) payload, also started its data-gathering operations earlier.
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