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Problems Hounding the SpaceX program and the ULA Vulcan Rocket

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A SpaceX Falcon rocket, pre-flight. [By courtesy of SpaceX [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

As ambitious as it was, the SpaceX program seems to be literally having a lot of problems leaving the ground.

According to this Guardian report, SpaceX, a privately-owned spaceflight company which is currently exploring the commercialism of this aspect of flight, can?t solve the problems regarding the recyclability of their rockets. Rockets being as expensive as they are, the only viable solution they?ve seen regarding the use of these expensive spaceflight tools was to use them again, but gravity is posing a huge problem.

SpaceX, however, isn?t without their backers, and according to this Extreme Tech article, they?ve got one in the form of a company built by two giants. United Launch Alliance?a company built on the partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing?has been busy working on a rocket which would fulfill SpaceX?s commercial space flight plans. Say hello to the Vulcan rocket.

SpaceX?s Third Consecutive Failure

Another successful launch happened, yet an unsuccessful rocket landing for SpaceX in this report from The Guardian.

Launching isn?t the problem for SpaceX, which has been delivering supplies to the International Space Station in their past test launches. The problem lies with their experimental reusable rocket, the Falcon. According to the report, after the successful launch, the Falcon had a hard time landing back on their reusable rocket barge. It didn?t crash and burn, as what happened in January?s SpaceX launch, but the results haven?t been spectacular as well.

How can you call landing and tipping over successful? That rendered the rocket unusable for another run, in the eyes of a SpaceX engineer, quoted by the article. Perhaps, once they master the technology of successfully landing rockets on their barge for another run will they be able to move on and concentrate on other technologies.

ULA to the Rescue

Where SpaceX seems to have failed time and again, ULA is stepping in with the hopes of taking over.

The Extreme Tech report tells of the Vulcan, a rocket in the same vein as SpaceX?s Falcon 9, but different. How different? Well, as far as reusability is concerned, this rocket is designed different than the ambitious Falcon with its vertical takeoff and landing system. The ULA is eyeing a more lucrative and easier stage separation rocket, with the intent of detaching pieces one by one and safely parachuting them back to Earth.

The new rocket was designed in the hopes that, as the article suggests, it will once again be the commercial rocket of choice. SpaceX designed their rockets with the thought of cheap, commercially-viable space travel in mind. ULA hopes to become their early competitor in this race.

The Future of Space Travel

The question of whether space travel will be possible for everyone seems to be addressed by these two companies with lofty goals. Both are competing to become the first company to ferry humans from Earth and into the great expanse. With technology being what it is, however, it might be a long time before SpaceX and ULA perfects it enough for everyone to be able to afford it.


Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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