Top Five Space Companies That Will Definitely Survive COVID-19
By Space Coast Daily // May 20, 2020
A pandemic, quarantines and closed borders have ruined the global economy. Businesses are struggling to survive, but even the most stable industries are today facing turbulence. Oil has become cheaper than water, and tourism, the service sector, entertainment and sport industries are suffering enormous losses. Worse, this is only the beginning of a chain reaction.
The COVID-19 disease has even hit the space industry. Capitalization of the space industry grew by $2-$3 billion a year before the pandemic and was forecasted to reach $1 trillion by 2040.
But today space agencies and companies are forced to postpone launches, tell employees to work remotely, freeze production or stop all activity.
At the end of March, British startup OneWeb, the main competitor of SpaceX, that planned to deploy a global satellite Internet network, declared bankruptcy. The pandemic stymied the company’s hopes of attracting additional financing and it was forced to close.
Other private players who have not yet managed to gain strength in the space market are also at risk of becoming victims of the pandemic.
Looking on the bright side, there are several space companies that will definitely survive. These are the giants, on whose shoulders the world space industry rests.
The list also includes promising newcomers, who are stubbornly – and confidently – reaching for the stars.
SpaceX is the undisputed and permanent leader of the private segment of the space market. The company was founded by Elon Musk in 2000 and has since reached great heights in both the literal and figurative sense. SpaceX has Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy launch vehicles, Dragon cargo spacecraft, satellite and rocket factories and its own spaceport in South Texas.
SpaceX rockets make 15-20 launches per year and boast the lowest cost of launching 1 kg of payload in low Earth orbits — only $2,600, compared to the price of its closest competitors — starting at $5,000.
Thanks to the irrepressible enthusiasm and energy of Elon Musk, SpaceX continues to develop and is constantly evolving. In 2019, the company conducted the first successful tests of the Crew Dragon passenger spacecraft, deployed the Starlink global satellite Internet network and signed a contract with NASA to supply the future near-moon orbital station as part of Artemis.
And don’t forget Musk’s plan to colonize Mars, a dream he has been chasing since childhood and is making come true slowly but surely. When you truly desire to accomplish something, no virus is a hindrance.
Lockheed Martin does not fear contagions or war. The company generates profits primarily on the latter. It has been in business since 1995, specializing in aircraft and shipbuilding, airport infrastructure and logistics automation and space development.
In 2013, Lockheed Martin was recognized as the world’s largest enterprise in the military-industrial complex, receiving 95% of revenues from orders from the Department of Defense, other US government agencies, including the US State Department, and foreign customers. The company’s military developments include ballistic missiles, ammunition, air defense systems, transport aircraft and aviation.
In space, Lockheed Martin’s accomplishments are impressive.
The company operates a series of Atlas launch vehicles, has a large number of communications satellites, GPS, geomonitoring, a Juno spacecraft specially designed for Jupiter research, and Osiris Rex for a mission to study near-Earth asteroids.
Promising developments in the LM space segment include:
• Orion — a reusable space transport ship for the delivery of goods and astronauts to the moon and Mars
• Mars rover InSight
• Maven — a robotic research mission to study the atmosphere and climate of Mars
• Space Fence — a project of a space shield around a planet that tracks the movement of space objects near it, up to fragments of asteroids and satellites.
Lockheed Martin’s powerful technical capabilities and equipment automatically made it a member of NASA’s new moon exploration program, Artemis, which launched last year. Humanity wants to return to the moon, and this time for a long time. Plans are afoot to build a lunar base and populate it.
In the future, the lunar base will become the starting point for the mission to Mars. The US government is particularly counting on Lockheed Martin for these projects.
Coeval to SpaceX is Blue Origin, the company owned by American billionaire Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon’s largest commodity aggregator.
Unlike Musk, Bezos relied not on comic shipping, but on tourism. Despite the difficulties in this segment, Blue Origin is progressively moving towards its goal and is not going to give up, seeing a great future in passenger suborbital flights.
The company created a reusable triple spacecraft New Shepard designed for vertical take-off and landing, almost completed the development of the heavy New Glenn launch vehicle, and in May last year presented a prototype of the landing module for landing on the Moon.
The device can make a soft landing on the lunar surface, carrying a payload of 3.6 to 6.5 tonnes, while it will be possible to place a lunar rover on its roof.
Not only Blue Origin’s founder believes in the company’s success. Future customers are already lining up for tickets for New Shepard. They will go on sale starting this year but Blue Origin has not yet set a price and tickets are not yet available for sale.
NASA is counting on Blue Origin’s help with the Artemis program, which, according to US President Donald Trump, will go forward notwithstanding the pandemic.
The American space startup Firefly arose in 2014 at the initiative of rocket engineer Thomas Markusic, who previously worked for NASA, SpaceX and Virgin Galactic.
Assessing the prospects for light launch vehicles, Markusic attracted an initial investment and opened Firefly Space Systems in Texas. Big ambitions required large financial injections, which were constantly lacking. In 2017, after the loss of the main investor, the company faced bankruptcy.
The venture was salvaged, thanks to Markusic’s acquaintance with Max Polyakov, an entrepreneur with Ukrainian roots, who is actively developing his business in Silicon Valley. Polyakov’s Noosphere Venture Partners LP invested $80 million and breathed new life into the project.
The company changed its name to Firefly Aerospace and rebooted operations. Much has been achieved over the past two and a half years.
The company has:
• Developed launch improved vehicles by employing additive technologies,
• Received permission from the US government to use Vandenberg Air Force Base’s launch base facilities in California,
• Opened an R&D center in the homeland of Max Polyakov in Ukraine,
• Signed cooperation agreements with Airbus Defense, Aerojet Rocketdyne and others, as well as launch services agreements involving more than a dozen companies, including SATLANTIS, Innovative Space Logistics BV.
On 22 April, Firefly Aerospace signed an agreement with Spaceflight Inc. that provides Spaceflight with the majority of the payload capacity aboard a Firefly launch vehicle scheduled to take off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California sometime in 2021.
• NASA selected Firefly to participate in its Artemis lunar program
• Firefly has made its Alpha light fully operational.
Although the first commercial launch of Alpha, scheduled for the summer of this year, had to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Firefly has enough work.
In addition to Alpha, the company is actively working on a Beta mid-range rocket manned by a Gamma spacecraft, as well as improving the Genesis landing module developed by Israel Aerospace Industries, which will take part in the moon’s colonization.
Aerojet Rocketdyne was formed in 2013 as a result of the merger of two competitors, the largest American rocket engine manufacturers — Aerojet and Rocketdyne.
This practically made the new company a monopolist in the liquid and solid-propellant rocket engine market in the United States. Only this fact already speaks of its inviolability and exceptional resistance to shocks of any scale.
The track record of Aerojet Rocketdyne includes more than a dozen engines that were used and are used in LV Saturn, Delta, ICBM Jupiter.
The LV Ares of Alliant Techsystems, LV Atlas and X33 Lockheed Martin spacecraft are also planned for use, as well as Firefly’s Alpha and Beta rockets.
In addition to the production of engines, the company is also developing solar generator systems, including the main power supply system of the International Space Station (ISS).
In May 2019, along with Lockheed Martin and Firefly Aerospace, Aerojet Rocketdyne was selected by NASA to design and manufacture spacecraft for landing on the moon as part of the Artemis program.
This means that there is a lot of work, regardless of quarantines. Sooner or later, COVID-19 will be forced to retreat and Space exploration will again flourish.
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