After 50 years, NASA has quite the status within our common culture. They represent the pinnacle of technology and cutting edge research. And, for the most part, with good reason. They've put people on the Moon, they've helped build the International Space Station, an orbital laboratory 100 metres long in Space! But, how have they done this, you might ask? With enough phDs and slide-rules to sink the Titanic? Well, yes, but also with a very large wallet. And as you may have seen lately this is causing them some problems. With their current budget they've got to keep the Shuttle flying, support the ISS, develop a new rocket to get them back to the Moon and Mars. So, even with their deep wallets a pretty tall order, and that's where private industry can ride in on its white steed and save the day. So, here, we'd like to highlight the seven ways private industry can help NASA, the behemoth of the Space industry reach their noble goals of space exploration:
- SpaceX (http://www.spacex.com/)
Despite some recent problems, SpaceX and their Falcon rockets provide a breath of fresh air into the Launch Vehicle market. If they manage to get their heavy Falcon 9 rocket and their cool-sounding Dragon capsule working, then the world will have the first ever commercial human space flights to Orbit.
- Scaled Composites (http://www.scaled.com/) and Virgin Galactic (http://www.virgingalactic.com/)
They've just unveiled Eve, the mothership of SpaceShipTwo. So, they're on their way to sending anyone (even Madonna) with a few bob spare into space, albeit sub-orbital.
- Servicing Telescopes
The final Space Shuttle trip to Hubble launches this October. Then it's on its own. Which is really quite sad because Hubble represents one of the shining examples of how useful Human Spaceflight is. This could be a perfect example of a service a private company could give to NASA. If a company could send up a repair team to a satellite or a telescope for cheaper than launching a new one, the design of all future missions would be changed.
- Orbtial Life Extension
And if human repairmen are a bit off in the distance, how about sending robots up to old satellites. That's the idea behind SSC's SMART OLEV
- Ground Stations
And it's not just in space where NASA spends the big bucks. Keeping the huge antennas on earth operational costs too. That's where new networks like PrioraNET (http://www.prioranet.com/) come in to play. Using private industry on a service basis should lead to better bigger ground stations, which helps everyone.
- Space Stations - Bigelo Aerospace (http://www.bigelowaerospace.com/)
What is the one most expensive mission NASA's ever been involved with? The International Space Station. It's an amazing and massive orbital structure unlike we've ever seen before, but was it worth the cost? The guys at Bigelo are proving in orbit now that with inflatable structures they can do it for much cheaper and theoretically even bigger!
- Payload to the Moon!
And of course, there's getting payload to the Moon! That's where the Google Lunar X PRIZE comes in to play!