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Space Innovation is Really Taking Off and Here's What's Happening Around the World

Tuesday, November 8, 2022
Categories : Market Trends
The commercial space industry is here. According to Forbes magazine, there are more than 10,000 companies around the world competing to give people access to space at unprecedented levels.  While companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin dominate the news when it comes to advancements in space technology, there’s a lot more going on than most people realize. In this article, we’re celebrating five out-of-this-world accomplishments, ideas, and organizations that are happening behind the scenes and out of the limelight of the news.

A Big Step Forward with The Most Powerful Rocket Ever Made
Artemis 1 is NASA’s first big step toward returning astronauts to the moon. It’s also the first test flight of the new Space Launch System (also called SLS) mega-rocket and the Orion crew capsule. At 8.8 million pounds of thrust, the SLS is the most powerful rocket in the world to launch since NASA’s final Saturn V “Moon rocket” took the Skylab space station into Earth orbit in 1973.  The great Saturn V was responsible for carrying the first astronauts to the moon in the Apollo program of the '60s and '70s.

SLS is far more advanced than the Saturn V, technologically. But its main purpose is thrust which allows it to carry more weight into orbit. This year, it’s expected to launch an unmanned spacecraft (carrying mannequins instead) on a 42-day mission, during which it will orbit the moon before returning to Earth. The first two attempts to launch the Artemis I were initially postponed, but NASA then launched the mission on November 16, 2022. You can find live updates here.

NASAs Space Launch SystemA graphic representation of a rocket similar to NASA’s Space Launch System, the most powerful rocket ever made.

A Deflected Asteroid

Unlike what we see in movies like Armageddon, we now have the skills and technology to shift a dangerous asteroid off-course, as long as it’s spotted with enough lead time, experts say. In September 2022, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) program successfully attempted the first-ever test of “planetary defense” by intentionally crashing a spacecraft into the asteroid Dimorphos.

Analysis of data obtained by the DART investigation team shows the spacecraft's kinetic impact with Dimorphos successfully altered the asteroid’s orbit, officially marking the first full-scale demonstration of asteroid deflection technology. It’s worth noting that Dimorphos was not an actual threat to the planet.

“All of us have a responsibility to protect our home planet. After all, it’s the only one we have,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “This mission shows that NASA is trying to be ready for whatever the universe throws at us. NASA has proven we are serious as a defender of the planet. This is a watershed moment for planetary defense and all of humanity, demonstrating commitment from NASA's exceptional team and partners from around the world.”

You can see what it was like behind the scenes at NASA during the test here.

Rocket into an asteroid to test the viability of planetary defenseNASA intentionally crashed a rocket into an asteroid to test the viability of planetary defense.

Lucy Orbits the Earth on her Journey to Explore the Galaxy

Speaking of asteroids, Lucy is a NASA space probe on a twelve-year journey to explore a record-breaking number of asteroids, flying by one main asteroid belt and seven Trojan asteroids. Trojans are small bodies that are remnants of our early solar system. They orbit the Sun in two loose groups: one group leading ahead of Jupiter in its orbit, the other trailing behind.

No other space mission in history has been launched to as many different destinations in independent orbits around our Sun. On October 15, 2022, NASA’s Lucy spacecraft captured this image (which has been cropped) of the Earth, as a part of an instrument calibration sequence at a distance of 380,000 miles (620,000 km).

You can read updates on Lucy’s mission from NASA on their Lucy blog and news updates pages.

Earth captured by Lucy from 380000 milesAn image of Earth captured by Lucy from 380,000 miles away on October 15, 2022. Image Source: NASA

Reusable Rockets are on the Rise

In an effort to reduce the cost of traveling into space, corporate and government organizations are beginning to invest in reusable rockets, according to Forbes. While still in the works, reusable launch systems are intended to dramatically lower the cost of leaving Earth’s atmosphere, opening the doors to opportunities that are theoretically possible but currently too expensive to be practical. Reusable rockets will also make routine space missions, such as launching satellites and resupplying the International Space Station, far more economical.

What most people don’t know is that the Space Shuttle was technically the world’s first reusable rocket. The orbiter, its 3 main engines, and twin solid rocket boosters could be refurbished and flown again.

Since then, SpaceX’s SN20 was slated to be the first successful orbital flight using a reusable rocket in early 2022. However, Elon Musk announced in March of this year that it’s being replaced with more efficient models. The SN20 was originally the most powerful rocket ever built, and when stacked, the tallest, in the hopes of eventually taking humans to Mars. Prior to SN20, in 2017, SpaceX made history by launching the first-ever recycled rocket, and today, its Falcon 9 and Falcon heavy rockets are partially reusable.

Blue Origin will attempt to launch its reusable two-stage New Glenn rocket (named after astronaut John Glenn) into low Earth orbit – this rocket is designed to be used up to 25 times and eventually will carry humans as well as cargo. The New Glenn launch vehicle is a reliable and low-cost two-stage launch vehicle system. It is designed to launch and land in almost all-weather conditions and heavy sea-states.

You can learn more about New Glenn in this video.

In a recent article, Discovery highlighted the two biggest players in the evolution of reusable rockets, SpaceX and Blue Origin, and shared more about why these advancements are important to the future of space flight.

Montauk Point in New YorkThe Falcon 9 SpaceX launch seen from Montauk Point in New York. Falcon 9 is partially reusable.

In addition, a couple of the most innovative space technology companies in the world (see below) are developing reusable rockets, transportable launch pads, and systems that can clean up launch debris in space.

The Most Innovative Space Tech Companies in the World (No, it’s not just SpaceX)

Elon Musk and SpaceX may dominate the news, but there are thousands of companies focused on space industry. In fact, innovation in space continues to soar as investment pours into the sector and new companies are emerging every day.

Competition between these companies has led the value of space-focused companies to cross the $4 trillion USD mark for the first time ever and is a key factor in significantly reducing the cost of launching a spacecraft into orbit in the past 20 years.

Beyond the space tourism voyages sending billionaires and celebrities into space, there have been significant improvements in rockets and launch systems, Earth observation, small satellites for next-generation communications, sustainability efforts, and systems to defend against. 

Earlier this year, Fast Company showcased the Top 10 most innovative companies in the space technology industry. Along with SpaceX, less familiar brands like Planet Labs, ABL Space Systems, Astroscale, and Rocket Lab, among others are making a positive impact when it comes to space innovation. You read more about those companies here.

Honorable Mention: Captain Kirk Returns to Space

Unlike some of the other innovations celebrated in this article, Blue Origin made news when it sent William Shatner, best known for playing Captain Kirk in the Star Trek series, into space.  On October 13, 2021, the famed actor went to space for real aboard a Blue Origin New Shepard rocket. His trip was only 10 minutes —but at 90 years of age, Shatner is now the oldest person to have ever traveled to space.

You can see what he had to say before and after traveling into space.

From reusable rockets to sending real people into orbit, designing for space travel and technology requires world-class components that can perform under the most demanding environments — like speed, weather, pressure, temperature — and the great unknowns of outer space. While we may not be directly involved with all of the innovations on this list, our components play a big role in making space technology possible. Why? Because innovative ideas often need custom hermetically sealed connectors for sensitive and critical electrical systems to work.

An Insiders guide to customizing hermetic connectors for military and aerospace applications

Since 1945, Hermetic Seal has been the go-to premier designer and manufacturer of high-reliability custom hermetically sealed electrical interconnection devices. Our products are used in sensing and actuating systems by the aerospace and defense, oil and gas, and medical device industries worldwide.

Hermetic Seal Corporation designs, engineers, and manufactures custom hermetically sealed connectors to meet the needs of innovative systems that require proprietary designs and connector customization. Contact us today to learn how our custom products can help your innovative idea take flight.


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