Last year in August, when the spaceship SpaceX Dragon carrying cargo landed on the International Space Station, it was easy to assume that space travel is more common than we think. The ship delivered the usual portion of supplies and necessities for the astronauts of the station, and also brought them a delicious treat – ice cream.
“This is a small token of appreciation for your great job”, were the words of a fellow scientist Andreas Mogensen of the European Space Agency transmitted to the astronauts at the station from NASA’s Mission Control in Houston. “Your reward is well-deserved.”
It’s the twelfth time Space X carries cargo as part of Commercial Resupply Service agreement with NASA, and it will still have 8 commercial trips back and forth to accomplish. It was an invention of a new company that designs space technology, and it will hopefully serve as a good example for other companies who strive for commercial collaboration with NASA.
Firefly Aerospace is the name of one more new space tech venture supported by Max Polyakov, and it specializes in affordable yet highly efficient space technology for those who need to deliver small cargos into the open space. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 is capable of transporting as many as 22 000 kilograms to the closest point on the orbit. Those who are waiting for long-term storage of ice-cream which will be enough for six years or so may find it a good idea. However, for businesses that produce low-weight satellites and seek to launch them onto the low-earth orbit, this may not be such a good idea.
Nowadays, a light-weight small satellite is no big news. They are produced on a large scale, and can cope with their functions just as well as the old 10-tonnes satellites did, with lower production cost, weight and maintenance requirements. The weight of such a small satellite is between 10 and 100 kilos, that is what a person could weigh (a boy or a grown man). There are even picosatellites that weigh less than 10 kilos. These tiny satellites are able to create conglomerates that will function as a big satellite. Thus, there is no more commercial use for big and heavy satellites.
However, cargo ship producers have other plans, and aim at building ships that carry large amounts of produce. SpaceX is about to test-drive its Falcon 9 Heavy in autumn this year, and they have said that they would be redeveloping it with the use of more advanced materials, and ultimately the ship will be able to fly as many as 550 000 kilos to the orbit.
Russia’s S7 Space Transportation Systems is also planning to resume sending ships into space from their Sea Launch floating platform. Zenit-3SL is by far the only rocket that can launch ships from the Sea Launch pad, which is designed to endure a weight of 6 000 kilos, and that is way over what a microsatellite would require in order to rocket launch.
The small lightweight satellites only get a chance to reach the orbit when they are launched together with a primary cargo launch, as suggested by the winners of Lunar X Prize, worth 20 million dollars. Space-IL from Israel agreed to unite their satellite SpaceX and send it as part of Falcon 9; however, the launch has for some reason been delayed. They are supposed to launch the mission at the end of March next year; however, now this is not such a likely occurrence. Max Polyakov’s idea is to allow commercial companies to pay for the launch of their small satellites with the help of ships like Firefly, which is guaranteed to change the industry.
Firefly Space Systems has become bankrupt in 2016. Max Polyakov’s EOS Launcher acquired the company assets and restarted it with the new name, Firefly Aerospace, re-employing many of its former staff members like company head Thomas Markusic. Max Polyakov, managing partner Noosphere Ventures, hopes to offer Firefly’s clients new ways of launching their satellites into space, and consequently bringing the company to new heights.