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2022: The Year of Space

By: Ms. Autumn Bernhard, Daedalus Flyer Editor & Order of Daedalians Communications Manager

Science fiction dubbed space as the final frontier in 1966. But in a time that resembles science fiction more than the previous centuries of industrial based, is space still the final frontier?

     The building blocks for the general public to reach space began back in October 1957 with the launch of the first artificial satellite to orbit Earth, Sputnik. Explorer 1, the first U.S. satellite, went into orbit a few months later on Jan. 31, 1958. On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American to fly into space. In April 1961, Russian Lt. Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit Earth in Vostok 1. On Feb. 20, 1962, John Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth.

     Fast forward to 2020, and space exploration was still reserved for scientists and astronauts. Last year’s advances made space attainable for those with big names backed by a big bank account. While seeing celebrities on their way to touch the stars was exciting, that was just the beginning according to the Space Foundation. In fact, 2022 is poised to be the most aggressive year for space exploration – ever.

Fast Facts

Ninety countries are operating in space in January 2022.

Eight countries are consistently launching and can obtain orbital access.

Thirteen companies that regularly launched have recently reached orbital space or have acquired companies with orbital launch capability.

Six companies are very close to launch debuts (most planned for 2022).

EVOLUTION OF PLAYERS

     We traditionally think of space advances being created by the government or military. However, after policies and government investment changes, commercial companies were allowed to contribute and provide services to the federal government, military and general public.

     “So many entrepreneurs and innovators are coming to the table,” said Rich Cooper, Vice President of Strategic Communications & Outreach at the Space Foundation. “Everybody always thinks of the space race as to how it started. This isn’t so much a space race as it is space races. There are so many adventures that are happening in civil, commercial and research areas in space. There is no one size fits all opportunity or access point for space anymore.”

     When the Space Foundation started in the mid-1980s, we were in the era of the shuttle and commercial space was something that people thought about but never fully bought into. Now, the shuttle is parked as a museum exhibit and commercial space is here.

     “We now have more means to access orbital space and put astronauts and others into space than at any other time,” Cooper said. “This is an evolution that is the result of commercial, civil government as well as military investment. They’re all building off of the lessons learned and experiences of those before them. What we’re seeing with the commercial arena is they’re offering opportunities to do things a whole lot different, a whole lot better and doing things in far more novel fashion than we ever might have imagined possible.”

2021 At A Glance

— Private citizens made it to space via commercial efforts by Virgin Galactic (one flight, suborbital), Blue Origin (two flights, suborbital) and SpaceX (one flight with Inspiration4 crew, orbital).

— Had the highest number of orbital space launches in history, narrowly surpassing 1967.

— The global space economy grew to $447 billion in 2020 and even grew in employment opportunities in 2021.

— James Webb Space Telescope launched on Christmas Day and will open a whole new chapter in astronomy and our greater understanding of our universe.

A NEW MARKETPLACE

     In 2021, five systems allowed people to access space — Russian Soyuz vehicles, Chinese Shenzhou-13, SpaceX Dragon, Blue Origin’s New Shepard and Virgin Galactic’s system. 

This year, they will all fly again with two additional systems being put forward — NASA’s Orion and Boeing’s Starliner. According to Cooper, after Boeing and NASA get their test runs in, Sierra Space, a subsidiary company for Sierra Nevada Corporation, is looking to human-rate their spaceplane to carry crew and supplies to the International Space Station. 

     “This past year, we saw three different launch vehicles carry the public into space in three very different fashions,” Cooper said. “The exciting part about this is the diversity of players, opportunity and means create competition and choices. Whenever you have those in a marketplace, that’s good for consumers. The consumer is not just a taxpayer, it’s a corporate leader, an investor, an inventor and a critical infrastructure. All those people are now playing in this arena. There is no more dynamic marketplace than space.”

     The space marketplace is comprised of more countries, companies and citizens than ever before. This leads to more reasonable prices for reaching space orbit.

     “The revolution that has occurred over the past 10 to 15 years in bringing the cost down to access space cannot be ignored,” he said. “The cost has always been quite significant. When you develop new means and additional launch systems that can launch in a cheaper fashion, that brings the cost down. If you bring the cost down, that creates more access and opportunity for others.” 

     Depending on which company you ride with, a space ticket ranges from $450,000 to tens of millions of dollars.

     “When commercial air travel first started in this country, it had what was then significant price tags, but when more players got into that market, the price came down,” Cooper said. “That allowed more people to travel, expansion of that industry to contribute to even more jobs and expansion in the economy. I have no doubt, I think the same thing will happen here.”

     Today, space is a $447 billion global marketplace and is projected to become a $1 trillion economy within the next decade.

     “As more countries and companies put forward different launch vehicles and launch systems, you’re going to have new markets unfold,” he said. “That’s good for everybody because it creates jobs, enhances the demand for those products and services which allows for economic expansion and provides value-added to the lives of not just employees and customers, but to the larger community that these things are impacting. That can’t be understated.”

     This success shines a light on another obstacle: how to find a talented workforce to satisfy the demand. There have been a several companies that have several thousand job openings that they have not been able to fill due to a lack of quality applicants. 

     “These jobs come in all shapes and sizes with lots of different demands upon them, but making sure that each of those workers is adept and skilled enough to do those things is critically important,” Cooper said, noting the Space Foundation’s Center for Innovation is working to help solve this dilemma. “We are working with education leaders from top to bottom and various stakeholders to make sure we are doing the things we can to build that pipeline of talent that will deliver the workforce that we need to not only generate the $1 trillion economy but fulfill all the other bolder missions that we imagine.”

2022 Forecast

— NASA is scheduled to launch its Space Launch System rocket and Orion crew capsule. SpaceX is preparing to launch its newest spacecraft, Starliner, for an orbital flight in early 2022. Boeing is scheduled to launch its Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station in
May 2022. 

— At least 10 companies are slated to test new orbital rocket systems or spacecraft, which will almost double the number of companies capable of reaching orbit.

— Once the James Webb Space Telescope reaches L2 (Lagrange point 2) and is unfolded and operational, we will get our first images and information about the furthest reaches and earliest moments of our universe.

CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE

According to Cooper, space is a critical infrastructure that every infrastructure is connected to — transportation, health, food and agriculture, supply chain and public safety. 

     “All of those critical infrastructures are dependent on GPS. If you don’t have space, you don’t have GPS. It’s all about dependence,” he said. “It’s having the connectivity; it’s having the information that it reveals. It’s being able to maintain all of the secure communications that we need for not just military and national security efforts, but financial transactions. The transmission of information for public health needs or whatever else it might be.”

     This dependency will only increase over time with new technologies being developed.

     “If you take space away, yes, people could ride a horse or bike or drive a car that doesn’t have GPS systems in it. But let’s face facts, the utilization of those technological enhancements has made for safer, more efficient and more effective transportation across the board,” he said. “That’s the force multiplier and value-added that space can bring not just to the transportation and supply chain, but to every other infrastructure.”

     Thus, if those lines of connectivity are severed, it breaks the communication and the access is removed.  

     “You are certainly creating more risk and more threat to the success of jobs, operations and missions,” he said. “You’re compromising the security and the future benefits by removing that force multiplier. Space is a force multiplier that allows every infrastructure to do what it needs to do as it matures to the next level.

     “A day without space would have grave repercussions to both the national security and economic security of the countries on this planet,” Cooper said.

SPACE FOUNDATION

     The Space Foundation is a nonprofit advocacy organization founded in 1983, that offers a gateway to education, information and collaboration for space exploration and space-inspired industries.

     1. A trusted source for information. Before Covid, the foundation would bring about 15,000 people together to share what’s going on in civil, commercial and military affairs, what’s happening with space, let alone the new technologies, investments and activities that were going on. But the symposium is just part of that.

     “Since we started our Center for Innovation and Education, we have been working to create what we call a lifelong learning culture that helps create that next generation of workforce that can satisfy the demands and jobs that need to be fulfilled,” Cooper said. “Space Force in many ways begins in a classroom, and if you don’t have the talent and aren’t giving teachers and educators the resources they need to develop that talent, they’re not going to be able to execute on the missions that you need them to do to provide for economic opportunity or national security which are critical to the success of this country and every other country on the planet.”

     2. A resource for education. Space Foundation’s ability to convene civil, commercial and military research parties together in a collaborative environment, allows them to help those organizations build relationships to do the next great things that they’re doing. 

     “We take the opportunity at Space Foundation to also pause and identify technologies that were developed for space that provide benefit to life here on Earth and help the public better understand and be more space aware of how space serves their day-to-day needs,” Cooper said. “Our Space Certification program and our Space Technology Hall of Fame identify the technologies that were developed for space and have transformed life on this planet, whether that be high-performance computing, whether that again be public health, satellite radio or broadband capacities. These are all things that came out of the space community that contributes to life here on Earth.”

     3. We are a collaborator in bringing different parties to the table. The foundation “executes a broad program of global engagement across all enterprises supporting global corporate members and ensuring a significant global presence.”

     “We at Space Foundation act as a global steward to make sure people understand what space is, the value it brings to them and the benefits it brings to life here on Earth,” Cooper said. “It is a privilege and an honor to be a steward of the global space community and help tell its story.

     “Space exploration is just one facet of today’s space environment. We certainly love the exploration and herald it, but it is one part of a multichapter story that is all being written at the same time,” he said. “There’s not just one story with space. There’s a multitude of them, and there are going to be even more multitudes. We’re in the opening chapters of this, and if you can’t get excited about that, I don’t know what else I can do for you.”