Space Race: Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, Blue Origin back at it

Virgin Galactic’s Thursday launch went off without a hitch. It’s the latest big move by one of the big three billionaire-backed companies in the increasingly heated space race.

SpaceX, run by tech company CEO Elon Musk, and Blue Origin, founded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, have also made their own developments in the past week. The former transported privately chartered crews to the International Space Station, while the latter signed a major lunar contract with NASA.

Here’s what FOX Business is investigating:

Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic launched Unity 25 million on Thursday, and the company’s spacecraft made a successful suborbital flight in what its CEO previously described as a “return to space.”

The mission, which involved the VMS Eve mothership, the VSS Unity spacecraft, four pilots and four crew members, took more than an hour and 25 minutes, according to one company. press release. After Unity separated from Eve, it reached a maximum distance of 84.2 miles from Earth and a top speed of Mach 2.94.


British billionaire Richard Branson, who founded Virgin Galactic and took part in a test flight in 2021, is at a launch site in New Mexico for the mission and appears to be watching the spacecraft. shared on Twitter.

Virgin Galactic previously said the purpose of Thursday’s flight was to “conduct a final evaluation of the full spaceflight and astronaut experience” ahead of the start of commercial flights later next month. The company’s efforts have been delayed in the past by upgrades and other factors.

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space Virgin Galactic Holdings K.K. 4.05 -0.35 -8.06%

CEO Michael Kolgrazie said earlier this month that the company’s “first commercial flight, Galactic 01, is planned for late June and will be a scientific research flight with members of the Italian Air Force.” Virgin Galactic reported first-quarter revenue of $392 million and a net loss of $159 million, but plans to “both commercial astronauts and research customers fly regularly thereafter.” he said.

A rocket plane carrying Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson and other crew members took off from Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico on Sunday, July 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton) ((AP Photo/Andres Leighton)/AP Newsroom)

After the final test flight, Virgin Galactic said it will next conduct “post-flight inspections and analyzes” to prepare for June’s plans.

space x

Four private Axiom Space crew members arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) earlier this week aboard a SpaceX spacecraft and rocket.

SpaceX’s Dragon Crew vessel docked with the ISS on Monday, according to a post by Musk’s company, Axiom Space, and NASA. SpaceX tweeted that the Dragonship was launched by a Falcon 9 rocket that took off from Florida the day before, after landing nearby.

space x building (Getty/Getty Images)

The private charter crew, two of whom are Saudi government-backed astronauts, had only a few days left on the ISS as of Friday.

Saudi Arabia’s first astronaut in decades launches rocket to ISS on private charter flight

SpaceX said in a tweet that this was Dragon’s 10th manned spaceflight.

SpaceX has so far done two of them for Axiom Space, including Sunday’s mission. Musk’s company plans to bring two more Axiom Space crew members to the ISS as part of a deal the two companies signed in 2021.

SpaceX had scheduled another Falcon 9 launch, the Arabsat BADR-8 mission, scheduled for Wednesday, but it was postponed to Friday due to “bad weather”. According to its website, the company has conducted more than 230 launches to date.

blue origin

Blue Origin was designated by NASA on May 19 to build a lunar lander.

It will do so for the Artemis V mission with NASA’s national partners as part of the NextSTEP-2 Appendix P “Sustaining Moon Development” contract awarded by NASA. The contract, valued at more than $3.4 billion, covers design, development, testing and two demonstration missions by the Washington-based company’s Blue Moon lander, according to people familiar with the matter. NASA press release.

The first of these two missions will be an “unmanned demonstration mission to the lunar surface,” according to NASA. Then, in 2029, there will be a “manned demonstration” of the Artemis V mission.

Bezos’ Blue Origin signs $3.4 billion deal with NASA to send astronauts to the moon

The first lunar lander contract was awarded to SpaceX in 2021.

NASA said the second contract would “increase competition, reduce costs for taxpayers, support a regular pace of moon landings, support further investment in the lunar economy, and provide a future route to Mars.” “It will help NASA meet its lunar and orbital goals in preparation for astronaut missions.” The astronauts Blue Moon plans to bring to the moon in 2029 will be on scientific and exploratory missions in the Antarctic region, according to the announcement.

Jeff Bezos Blue Origin

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and the space tourism company Blue Origin, trots over the Blue Origin New Shepard rocket landing pad for photos at a spaceport near Van Horn, Texas, Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) (Tony Gutierrez/AP Newsroom)

Blue Origin’s domestic partners have been identified as Lockheed Martin, Draper, Boeing, Astrobotic and Honeybee Robotics.

The company said it and its partners are “already engaged and excited to be on this journey with NASA.”

Daniella Genovese and Andrea Vacchiano contributed to this report.

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