The space mission saga so far

The overall space economy has grown by 4.4% in the last year to nearly $450 billion (est. £382 billion), with commercial activities accounting for well over half of the growth, according to Steve DelBusso, leader of the national security group at management and consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. Space missions cannot run without the tech industry, with many space expeditions now incorporating sectors such as telecommunications, artificial intelligence, high-performance computing, materials science, and manufacturing. 

Although sending rockets and satellites into space is the main goal, remarkable innovations such as satellite communication, global positioning systems, digital photo sensors, and OpenStack cloud computing, have deep roots in space research. With celebrities and business leaders now venturing into space, companies are establishing more of a space presence than ever before. It has been nearly half a century since humans first journeyed into space and left footprints on the Moon. Since that iconic moment, human space exploration has largely centred on manned low-Earth orbit missions or unmanned scientific exploration through satellites.

Most recently, eleven UK organisations have been awarded a share of just under £7 million of government funding to incorporate the latest advances in space innovation. Each project focuses predominantly on climate change; however, other companies have already designed projects to secure our telecommunication systems and protect digital infrastructure against cyberattacks. 

What is the latest with the space mission so far? 

Are astronaut taxi rides on the cards? Currently, SpaceX, founded by Tesla CEO and Time Person of the Year for 2021, Elon Musk, is the only company right now capable of sending astronauts to the International Space Station. NASA has said they will be awarding more company flights for astronaut ‘taxi rides’ in the near future. They provide this service under its Commercial Crew Transportation Capabilities (CCtCap) contract, first awarded in 2014. SpaceX is working hard to send a larger number of crews into the International Space Station in order to make the station more attractive to commercial companies, such as Axiom Space, which will launch the first all-private mission to the complex in early 2022. 

Starship is the massive, next-generation rocket SpaceX is developing to launch cargo and people on missions to the Moon and Mars. The company even wants to add another launchpad in Florida; Elon Musk confirmed this month that its construction had begun. Yet SpaceX is not the only private enterprise involved in sending humans to space. On July 20th this year, Blue Origin, founded by Amazon executive chairman Jeff Bezos, flew Bezos and three crewmates to space. In addition, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic had its first flight to space in July.

How will the tech industry fit into the future of space? 

Technology in 2021 and beyond is always changing and expanding. Currently, NASA is using technologies like 5G, advanced satellite systems, 3D printing, big data, and quantum technology to bring reformations in its activities and operations in space. Technological innovations are now driving space activities and research, so the tech industry has an important role in space missions. Implementing advanced space technology is critical since several services like weather forecasts, remote sensing, satellite television, and long-distance communication rely on space infrastructure. For more information about the future of space missions in the UK, visit the Gov.uk website here. 

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