The space projects have been dominated by government bodies until we saw the ambitious companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin diving into this diverse area. These two are the most prominent names in the private space community and are often put on a face-off due to the similarity of its founders in other areas as well.
Owned by two of the most powerful businessmen of all time — Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, they have been on the competition radar for their interest in the area of autonomous vehicles. Similarly, in the space segment, while the two companies might look quite similar in its attempts to explore space, the ideology and the approach of these companies vary quite significantly. But one thing cannot be denied that they both are developing large, reusable vehicles capable of carrying people and satellites across space.
In The News
While we have often heard about SpaceX’s missions and launches over the past few years, Blue Origin does not come out to be so ambitious in gaining traction. In the last two years alone SpaceX has performed 21 launches, representing about 20% of roughly 100 worldwide launches.
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Recently it also became the first private company to successfully launch its SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket into space. It is the first time ever that commercially-developed space vehicles – owned and operated by a private entity rather than NASA – have transported humans into orbit. Musk’s obsession with exploring Mars and other space is not unknown. Back in 2001, he came up with the idea for Mars Oasis and even pledged a few million dollars for the project.
Blue Origin, on the other hand, has yet to launch anything into orbit. But its ambitions are not too different from SpaceX. Its rocket called the New Glenn is often the talk of the town, and the company is aiming to launch it in 2021. This rocket will be powered by an engine developed by the company itself, called the BE-4. It was secretly found in 2000 by Bezoz but has gained attention only after 2015. It is also working on New Shepard, a vertical takeoff and vertical landing rocket that the company wants to use for human tourism.
Tryst With AI
In 2018, SpaceX sent an AI-based robot called CIMON, short for Crew Interactive Mobile Companion to the international space station. It was designed to help astronauts perform their work such as scientific experiments. It became the first AI technology to be launched to the space station.
Not just that, the recently launched Falcon 9 rocket also made use of artificial intelligence. It has a sophisticated AI autopilot that steers the cone-shaped Crew Dragon. Once it reaches within 60 feet of the space station, the astronauts then manoeuvre it.
Talking about Blue Origin, Bezos’ parent company Amazon’s cloud unit, AWS recently unveiled a new space business segment called Aerospace and Satellite Solutions business segment. With an aim to bring AWS services to space enterprises and satellite industry, it aims to help them with spaceflight operations. It aims to reimagine space system architectures, launch services that process space data on Earth, provide secure, flexible, scalable, and cost-efficient cloud solutions to space missions. It might hardly come as a surprise if Blue Origin tries to benefit from it in the coming future.
SpaceX has many firsts in its name, for instance, building and sending liquid-fueled rockets in Earth’s orbit, developing a small launcher, successfully launching, orbiting and recovering spacecraft, developing the cheapest rocket, first private company to send humans into space and more.
Blue Origin, on the other hand, likes to take smaller steps at a time. It has so far developed a suborbital capsule system, acquired the technology of reusable rockets with vertical takeoff and landing, made a two-stage orbital launch vehicle with New Glenn and soon aims to send astronauts to the moon again.
While SpaceX has sent many rocket designs to orbit and recently sent astronauts to space, Blue Origin is working towards it. It has till now flown suborbital rocket flights and is in the early stages of assembling its first rocket capable of reaching orbit. Though there is a visible lag, experts believe that Blue Origin is well set for giving major competition to SpaceX. Especially with Amazon’s Kuiper project and AWS space unit, it can soon be expected to make a competitive move against SpaceX.