What's the Latest Development?
The private pace venture Space-X is investing money into the Vandenberg Air Force Base to make its facilities suitable for launching rockets into space. Space-X's latest project is a heavy-lift vehicle called Falcon Heavy which it expects can carry a payload of 117,000 pounds in low Earth orbit. This is double the current limit of 50,000 pounds that can be carried by Boeing/Lockheed Martin's heavy lift vehicle. Space-X says each launch of its Falcon Heavy will cost only half as much as the rocket the Air Force currently depends on to launch satellites.
What's the Big Idea?
Competition has come to the space industry, and not a moment too soon. After space shuttle Atlantis completes its final mission this month to restock the International Space Station (I.S.S.), N.A.S.A. will no longer have the capability to launch astronauts into space. Space-X has already been contracted to restock the I.S.S. when its heavy-lift vehicle is operational. The company's main goal is to attract government contracts, specifically armed forces missions to launch space satellites. Currently the military relies on a joint launch venture controlled by Boeing and Lockheed Martin.