A 21st Century Space Race


Matthew Okrent, Business Manager, Staff Writer

We are in the middle of a modern-day space race.  Two privately-owned U.S. corporations, Blue Origin and SpaceX, race for the best technology in this ever-expanding field.  However, the Chinese Academy of Launch Vehicle Technologies, or CALT, has recently been ramping up its efforts to compete with the two American aerospace giants.

Both Blue Origin and SpaceX employ different strategies in their technology. However, both companies have the same goal: making space travel more affordable by creating reusable rockets.  One design allows rockets to be reconstructed from previous rockets without needing new materials. Other rockets are simply able to land vertically, ready to be sent back into space at a moment’s notice.  For many years, these corporations have been the leaders in the field nationally, receiving the majority of government funding and making most of the recent advancements in the field.  Since the Space Race of the 1960s, American aerospace advancements and leadership in global space exploration have gone relatively unchallenged.  But with the rise of China’s space exploration programs, these corporations may have new competitors.

CALT has developed new spaceplanes that will make commercial space flights more possible and cost effective.  These spaceplanes are also reusable, like the rockets being developed by SpaceX and Blue Origin.

The new spaceplane can’t carry as heavy a load into space as the rockets produced by SpaceX and Blue Origin can, but the spaceplane can be used for smaller loads, such as the transport of microsatellites, small amounts of cargo, or even people.  This technology in particular does not threaten the current reign of US aerospace corporations, but it could lead to the rise of new Chinese competitors to US corporations, which could be detrimental to American success in the industry.