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The Private Border: Enterprise explorers are poised to launch $ 1 billion in science

President Donald Trump has struggled with some of his signature promises, but now he has set his goals higher: a return to the moon, five decades after the last human footstep.

The White House has spoken of landing the first woman on the moon within five years, and Trump's Vice President Mike Pence has made it clear that the private sector – which is mainly supported by a handful of billionaires – could play a major role in the plans.

Trump's extra-terrestrial ambitions are likely to be fueled by more down-to-earth concerns: his craving for sensational headlines and the desire to be ahead of his geopolitical rivals. China, Trump's most important trading partner, landed a rover on the other side of the moon in January, while the US relied on Russia to launch its astronauts into space.

But a new moon shot from the US government would give a boost to the already burgeoning private space industry, which is expected to triple over the next 20 years.

Investment bank analysts UBS expect the space business to have a value of nearly $ 1 trillion (£ 770 billion) per annum over the next two decades. This is roughly equivalent to the GDP of Indonesia, the 16th largest economy in the world. At present it is still 340 billion USD.

Bank of America analyst Felix Tran, Merrill Lynch expects the industry's "Space Race 2.0" to bring in $ 2.7 trillion by 2045. The commitment of the US government will give an important boost to the mood of private investors.

The private sector has already taken on a much larger share of space work, including missile launches traditionally limited to state agencies such as NASA. And they have a strong focus on reducing costs.

Earlier this month, SpaceX, the company founded by serial technology entrepreneur and founder of Tesla, Elon Musk, completed the first full commercial launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket. Apart from the world's most powerful rocket (it has 27 engines and put a Saudi Arabian communications satellite into orbit after launching a Tesla car into space on its debut last year), the main advantage of the Falcon Heavys is the cost advantage that the it provides reusable rockets that can land in one piece on the earth.

The Stratolaunch plane was in the first flight last weekend

The Stratolaunch plane was in the first flight last weekend. Photo: Gene Blevins / Reuters

At least, that's the theory, though the central core of the Falcon, which had successfully landed in front of a drone boat off the Florida coast, turned over into rough seas.

NASA, however, seems ready to outsource operations to SpaceX. Last week, the company hired the company for a project that has more than a passing resemblance to Bruce Willis' film Armageddon – Firing a rocket into an asteroid to see if it is possible to deflect one direction Earth.

Other rocket companies adopt a similar approach to reduce expensive waste. Blue Origin, owned by Amazon's Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, intends to produce a rocket with twice the capacity of another launcher.

Stratolaunch, founded by the late Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, successfully flew the largest plane in the world last weekend, with the ultimate goal of bringing rockets into the atmosphere. The US companies Boeing and Lockheed have a risk with the US government to produce a vehicle that can carry heavy payloads, and strive in 2021 for the first rocket launch.

Britain is involved in the "new space race," says Mark Thomas, chief executive of Reaction Engines in Oxfordshire. Supported by BAE, Boeing and Rolls-Royce, the company is developing its saber engine, which hopes to be able to propel a spacecraft in the atmosphere on Mach 5.4 and then in rocket mode with an onboard oxidizer at Mach 25 space flight. (Such speeds could also revolutionize air traffic: the maximum speed of Concorde was at Mach 2.)

Richard Branson with one of the spacecraft of Virgin Galactic.

Richard Branson with one of the spacecraft of Virgin Galactic. Photo: Barry J. Holmes / The Observer

Reaction tested its key cooling technology at Mach 3 this month and plans to test its core system next year. If everything works as planned. Thomas says his test system could fly until 2025. The response prediction could cut the launch cost from $ 60 million to just $ 6 million, allowing much greater human activity in space.

"If you seriously want to free people from the earth – and that's an" if "- you'll need a serious infrastructure in space," says Thomas. "It means everything, you need more routine and reliable access to space."

With decreasing costs, other possibilities arise. Satellite and related services still account for most of the space industry – 77%, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch satellites, but space tourism has inspired many people.

According to separate research from UBS, space tourism will generate $ 3 billion by 2030. In January, Sir Richard Branson said he expects to make his first voyage into space "in the middle of this year" on a Virgin Galactic flight. Bezos and Musk plan crew flights within a year.

The British billionaire has made several similar promises in the past: he had promised space flights 12 years ago, with the aim of bringing passengers into space by 2010. However, this could be another time. In February, Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo with two pilots on board reached 55.87 miles (55.87 miles) above the 50-mile mark where NASA marks the beginning of space. Finally, Virgin Galactic hopes to take six passengers at the same time for outer-space rides, and has charged 700 people, some of whom have been waiting for years, with tickets for up to $ 250,000.

Other companies are striving a little less: The Spanish company Zero 2 Infinity and World View from Arizona are both aiming to bring passengers in balloons to the edge of the earth's atmosphere, four times higher than aircraft.

As the introduction becomes cheaper, another group of entrepreneurs are already planning plans for the next step: space hotels. Robert Bigelow, the founder of the hotel chain Budget Suites of America, connected an inflatable housing module to the International Space Station in 2016. Now the company has the ambition to build a complete commercial space station that will initially accommodate scientists and paying customers.

Despite all these recent developments announcing a new, cheaper space age, UBS warns that everything in space for mass market travel is out of sight. It reminded his customers, "This is still a rocket science."



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