Feeds

A year in spaaaaace: El Reg looks back on 2011

Era of the spaceplane ends, robot exploration continues

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Upstart start-ups get a look-in

But despite all the bad that went with the closure of the programme, there was also some potential good - possible successors to the shuttle.

At first the field seemed to be opening up to commercial companies that might be able to provide rockets at significantly lower costs, such as Elon Musk's SpaceX firm. But NASA was having a hard time letting go of the expensive and lavishly-staffed way it has always done things and announced it was planning a new kind of rocket based on recycled shuttle (and Apollo) technology, the Space Launch System.

NASA wasn't completely blind to the benefits of commercial space travel, however, setting up and distributing Commercial Crew Development funding for possible manned flights to Amazon-ian Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin space venture, Paypal alumni Elon Musk's SpaceX and the Sierra Nevada Corporation.

Out of that lot the prize goes to SpaceX, which will have the first mission to the International Space Station by a privately built and operated spacecraft early next year, NASA announced. The Dragon capsule, sitting on a Falcon 9 rocket, will (hopefully) deliver supplies to the ISS.

The Dragon capsule with 'Draco' rockets in action. Credit: SpaceX

The Dragon capsule with 'Draco' rockets in action. Credit: SpaceX

Nonetheless NASA isn't quite ready to let go of the old days, sending some of the commercial crew funds the way of United Launch Alliance - basically the entire existing US rocket business amalgamated into a huge monopoly. ULA is a joint venture of guess who? Yes, Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

ULA's offering for commercial manned flights is the trusty Atlas V rocket, which is to be man-rated to send astronauts into low-Earth orbit.

Plenty of Atlas Vs have already flown with unmanned missions - for instance carrying Juno, NASA's Jupiter probe, into space.

Artist's impression of Juno at Jupiter. Pic: NASA

Artist's impression of Juno at Jupiter. Credit: NASA

Juno, which will be busily unlocking the secrets of the early solar system when it eventually makes it to Jupiter in 2016, launched in August.

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
Cutting cancer rates: Data, models and a happy ending?
How surgery might be making cancer prognoses worse
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Brit balloon bod Bodnar overflies North Pole
B-64 amateur ultralight payload approaching second circumnavigation
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Scale data protection with your virtual environment
To scale at the rate of virtualization growth, data protection solutions need to adopt new capabilities and simplify current features.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?