Top 5: Aerospace for 2013

2012 was an eventful year for the aerospace industry. SpaceX, lead by the talented Elon Musk, conducted its first resupply mission to the International Space Station. Half-a-world away, the Chinese space program launched its first manned mission. And in Washington State, a group of entrepreneurs lead by Google Co-Founder Larry Paige set out to mine asteroids while the long awaited Boeing Dreamliners finally rolled off production lines. The best part is, however; that the immense progress that was made last year is not going to end just because its no longer 2012. Here are our thoughts and predictions for the year to come.

1. SpaceX Successfully Launches the “Falcon Heavy”

The Falcon Heavy in SpaceX’s Headquarters in California
2012 was a lucrative year for SpaceX. With a successful cargo mission to the ISS, the company secured a contract worth millions with NASA and inspired a wave of private cargo bookings on its Falcon 9 Rocket. Whats next? A super-rocket known as the Falcon Heavy that can lift four times the amount of its predecessor, and that will be able to support manned spaceflight on a scale not seen since the the Apollo program. Does this mean a return trip to the moon? Maybe so.

2. Voyager 2 Leaves the Solar System

Voyager 2, Concept Art
In 2012, 33 years after its launch from earth, Voyager 2 passed through the heliosheath, the place where the solar wind slows to a level below that of the speed of sound. Along with Voyager 1, and Pioneer 10, Voyager 2 is one of the farthest man-made objects from the earth (at 101 AU), and although its sister probe is almost 25 AU further than it from the earth, Voyager 2 passed through the heliosheath nearly a billion miles before Voyager 1. Thus, it seems likely that it will be the Voyager 2, not the Voyager 1, that will cross the heliopause, the boundary between interstellar and interplanetary space first. And 2013 is as good a year as any!

3. Planetary Resources Launch Their First LEO Telescope

 The LEO telescope, an asteroid hunter

One of the many 2012 Space Tech Startups, Planetary Resources plans to mine asteroids. But first it has to find them. That’s where LEO telescopes come in. Launched into low earth orbit (leo), the aptly named telescope will be free to scan the skies for asteroids with obscuring effects of earth’s atmosphere. With a goal to make the telescope available to the private citizen, Planetary Resources could have a Kickstarter or even a Prototype up and running by the end of 2013.

4. Virgin Galactic Offers its First Suborbital Space Flights to the General Public

The Space Plane

As of 2013, Virgin Galactic has successfully conducted test 23 suborbital flights in its “space plane” SpaceShipTwo. However, aside from a select few politicians and other important figures, few people non-professionals have actually flown on the planes. Tickets, starting at $200,000 have been on sale since 2009. There already a robust wait list full of celebrities like Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt just waiting for their own chance to make history. The first flight was slated for 2012, but never appeared, and it is assumed that it had been pushed back until 2013.

5. June Sky Launches its First High Altitude Testing (HATs) Program
Wake up an smell the science
June Sky, a non-profit organization founded in 2012, has big dreams for this year. After bad weather and a lack of fuel delayed the the summer rocket launch, the non-profit has made great strides in telescopic astronomy, rocketry and most importantly in balloon science for the HATs Weather Balloon program. The goals of the program are three-fold.
1. To capture data and HD footage from high above the Earth
2. To test systems involved in the H202 rocket
3. To inspire others
Launch is slated for March or April of 2013