Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, Elon Musk's SpaceX, and Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic share the same goal of flying into space, but different purposes.
On July 20, Jeff Bezos and his crew and members: Mark Bezos, Wally Funk, and Oliver Daemen successfully flew to the edge of space aboard the New Shepard spacecraft of Blue Origin – the space company headed by Jeff Bezos.
This trip was made 10 days after billionaire Richard Branson's flight on Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity ship. In April, Elon Musk's SpaceX also carried 4 astronauts to the ISS by Crew Dragon successfully.
Over the past decade or so, private aerospace companies, such as Blue Origin, SpaceX, or Virgin Galactic have begun racing into space, ushering in a new era of space conquest and exploration. These companies are making space access more affordable and possible.
“We're making great progress when it comes to commercial human spaceflight,” said Karina Drees, President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, an organization dedicated to the commercialization of spaceflight. comment. “Future generations will see this as an important moment, the opening milestone for mankind's conquest of space.”
However, despite many similarities, the goals of Blue Origin, SpaceX, and Virgin Galactic are different in both implementation methods and purposes.
Blue Origin – building a cost-effective way to space
Blue Origin was founded in 2000 by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. The Kent, Washington-headquartered company went silent for many years after its founding, and only really came to public attention in 2010 when it won a development contract in the Commercial Crew Program. of NASA.
Since then, the company has achieved many achievements, the most recent being the flight to the edge of space on July 20.
Both flights recently performed by Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin were crewed suborbital flights. However, Blue Origin used a vertical take-off and landing (VTVL) vehicle. The vessel carrying Jeff Bezos was also unmanned, marking the first time a drone flight with an all-civilian crew has been carried out.
Blue Origin's current goal is to be able to carry humans to space travel at the edge of space. Currently, the price of tickets per person has not been announced, but recent information indicates that the winner of the auction and won a seat on a Blue Origin flight must pay more than $28 million.
In the future, Blue Origin aims to reach space at a low cost, reliably through reusable launch vehicles. But compared to Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin's ambitions go far beyond future suborbital space. The company is currently developing a giant reusable rocket called the New Glenn to carry people and goods to Earth orbit. The first flight of this rocket will take place in 2022.
More recently, Blue Origin also developed a lunar lander. The company leads “The National Team” – a private venture that proposes a system to bring humans to earth in NASA's upcoming Artemis lunar exploration program.
Virgin Galactic wants to dominate space tourism
British billionaire Richard Branson founded Virgin Galactic in 2004. The company, headquartered in Las Cruces, New Mexico, is the world's first publicly listed space tourism business. Currently, the company's market capitalization reaches 7.5 billion USD.
On July 11, VSS Unity SpaceShipTwo successfully performed a flight to the edge of space. Compared to the 107 km altitude that Blue Origin's ship made, Virgin Galactic's flight was 80 km lower. The Virgin Galactic solution differs from Blue Origin and SpaceX's ships in that it uses a spaceplane instead of a reusable rocket. The spacecraft itself must be raised to a certain height by the rocket launcher, then released to fly into further space on its own booster.
In fact, VSS Unity is just a suborbital spaceplane, meaning it doesn't have enough speed to escape Earth's gravity. Instead, it flew at three times the speed of sound, about 3,700 km/h, to an altitude of more than 80 km.
Following this test flight, Virgin Galactic is preparing to launch its space tourism service in 2022. The company's long-term goal is to dominate the space tourism market through the VSS Unity SpaceShipTwo family of spacecraft, which allows passengers experience zero gravity for a short time, with a ticket price of about 250,000 USD.
SpaceX wants to conquer distant planets
Elon Musk founded SpaceX in 2002 with the goal of making space flights, space transport services, and beyond, flying to planets like Mars.
On May 30, SpaceX successfully performed a historic flight carrying two NASA astronauts. The Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) and will return them to Earth in the next few months.
The launch also marked many important milestones like the first time in nearly a decade that astronauts flew into space from US soil, SpaceX's first manned flight, and the first time a spacecraft. spacecraft developed by a private company to carry people to Earth orbit.
The Falcon 9 rocket is SpaceX's flagship vehicle, with 85 flights over the past decade. However, the company is developing a new reusable rocket, as well as a fully reusable Starship spacecraft and rocket model that will send 100 people to Mars at once.
In recent interviews, Elon Musk set his ambitions to “colonize Mars”. He said SpaceX's long-term goal is to conquer the “Red Planet” and put people here as early as 2026.