Our New Frontier: Possibilities for Growth

Space presents a new opportunity for public-private partnerships.

By Emilie Oblivión.

Interest in exploring and exploiting space is at its highest since the Apollo missions—only this time around it’s not only NASA planning to put boots in space. While most nations are focusing on developing ways to protect their assets from attack (see “Our New Frontier: Threats from Above”), the private sector is reaching toward the stars. Commercial satellites are on the rise, and some enterprises have much grander ambitions.

November 2010 saw the formation of Planetary Resources Inc. This corporation intends to exploit near-Earth mineral-rich asteroids by mining them. Then came Inspiration Mars and Mars One, which both caught the public’s imagination by opening up the possibility of a human journey to the red planet. The latter, pioneered by a Dutch company, planned to fund itself with revenue made broadcasting every aspect of the mission. Both these proposals have now been written off as too fanciful, but other initiatives are moving beyond the conceptual stage.

SpaceX, the brain child of Tesla Motors founder Elon Musk, is so far leading the private space race. SpaceX boasts 4,000 staff, twice as many as the European Space Agency. It is a company that has achieved a plethora of achievements, including being the first private enterprise to have a liquid-filled rocket reach orbit, send a spacecraft to the International Space Station, or send a satellite into geosynchronous orbit, and it completed the first ever landing of an orbital capable rocket, which was made by the Falcon 9.

Musk has made it clear that the primary objective of SpaceX is not only to …

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