Space giants join forces to battle SpaceX: This is how cheap space travel begins

December 25, 2017 – 10:05 am

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Two of Europe’s largest companies, Airbus and Safran, are joining forces to fight SpaceX’s attempts to steal away their majority share of the lucrative commercial space launch business. This is one of the first times that one of the larger, entrenched, government-backed aerospace consortia has deigned to raise a quizzical eyebrow in acknowledgement at the presence of SpaceX — but it certainly won’t be the last. SpaceX, after a series of cheap, successful space launches, is now starting to make waves: After decades of expensive, monopolistic control of space travel, companies like Boeing, Lockheed, and Airbus are finally going to have to slash their costs to stay competitive. This is how the era of cheap space travel begins.

Arianespace, co-owned by Airbus and the French government, has dominated the commercial space launch business for years, and is by far the world’s largest player when it comes to putting satellites into orbit. Following the Falcon 9’s high-profile missions to the International Space Station, its much lower cost ( million vs. 0 million for the Ariane 5, pictured above), and SpaceX’s continued advances towards reusable space launchers, it was only a matter of time until Arianespace was forced to react. Today, Airbus has announced a partnership with Safran (a French rocket engine maker) to create a new family of price-competitive space launch vehicles.

The Safran-made Vulcain rocket engine, as used on the Ariane 5 launcher

When it comes to big-time commercial space launches, there are three main players: The United Launch Alliance (Lockheed/Boeing), Arianespace (Airbus and French government), and International Launch Services (Lockheed, and two big Russian companies, Khrunichev and Energia). These consortia account for close to 100% of the annual multi-billion-dollar spend on space launches. SpaceX is one of a few new upstarts that wants a piece of that pie. [Read: SpaceX unveils Dragon V2, the world’s first commercial manned reusable spaceship.]


Source: www.extremetech.com

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