The docking of SpaceX’s Dragon capsule with the International Space Station is a landmark for the private space industry, marking the first time a commercial spacecraft has flown a mission to the International Space Station, to deliver supplies.
SpaceX is one of many companies developing commercial space technologies and planning to launch their own spacecraft for a variety of purposes. Several of them are based in the Seattle region or have ties to the area, raising hopes of this becoming the “Silicon Valley of Space,” combining the region’s legacy in software and aerospace.
Here’s an update on where a few of the key players stand.
Planetary Resources: The Bellevue-based asteroid mining company, run by NASA veterans and major players in commercial space industry, received 2,000 job applications in the three weeks following the public announcement of its plans, and has stopped accepting them for now. The company has a multi-year plan to launch robotic spacecraft designed to discover and ultimately mine near-Earth asteroids for water and minerals.
Boeing: The aerospace giant said last week that it completed a preliminary design review for the software to be used used in its CST-100 spacecraft, which is intended to transport up to seven astronauts to the International Space Station. That followed a successful parachute drop of the CST-100 capsule earlier in the month. Boeing is one of several companies receiving funding from NASA to develop alternatives to the retired Space Shuttle fleet.
Stratolaunch Systems: Started by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, this company plans to launch rockets from the largest airplane ever made. The company, based in Huntsville, Ala., has now acquired both of the Boeing 747s that it will use to create the launch plane. Stratolaunch is aiming for a first flight within five years, starting with cargo missions.
Blue Origin: This company, founded by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, completed a series of successful high-speed wind tunnel tests, helping to refine its spacecraft’s aerodynamics. Blue Origin, based in Kent, Wash., plans to make rocket boosters reusable — and therefore more economical — by bringing them back to Earth with a vertical landing technique. Blue Origin last week loaned one of its early test flight vehicles to Seattle’s Museum of Flight.
Google Lunar X Prize: This competition, run by the X Prize Foundation, aims to give out $30 million in prizes, including a top award to the first privately funded team that can land a rover on the moon and send back HD videos and images to Earth. NASA and the X Prize Foundation this past week agreed on guidelines to ensure the presevation of historic locations on the moon including the Apollo landing sites.
Previously on GeekWire: Rockets, robots and a big week in the ‘Silicon Valley of Space’