The changing space race | The Economist

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The space race has changed since the Soviet Union sent Sputnik 1, the first man-made satellite, into space in 1957. The fight for domination is now between private companies rather than governments. Click here to subscribe to The Economist on YouTube: http://econ.trib.al/rWl91R7 The first man-made satellite Sputnik 1 was sent into space in 1957 by the Soviet Union. At the time only governments could afford to launch satellites but technological advances have lowered the barriers to entry and more companies are joining the fray producing commercial rockets like Falcon 9, one of the cheapest on the market, at $62 million. Satellite industry expenditure has gone sky high. It now accounts for 38% of spending on all space projects. Tech start-ups have been building smaller satellites which can be built and launched at lower cost than those created by space agencies. "Nano satellites" are not much bigger than a shoebox and can provide more comprehensive coverage at a cheaper cost. Tiny satellites cover smaller areas of the globe than their larger predecessors. This enables them to update imagery more frequently. Launching a satellite would once have required an entire rocket but now a single rocket can carry a large enough payload to propel numerous satellites into space using multiple modules, lowering the cost. In February 2017, 104 satellites were sent into orbit from India, the most aboard a single rocket. Companies are also trying to create re-usable rockets to reduce their costs significantly. The Earth is now surrounded by an ever-growing belt of orbiting machinery. When satellites come to the end of their lives they either burn up in the Earth's atmosphere or become space junk. The danger is that the density of objects in low earth orbit will increase the change of collisions which could endanger global communications. Daily Watch: mind-stretching short films throughout the working week. For more from Economist Films visit: http://films.economist.com/ Check out The Economist’s full video catalogue: http://econ.st/20IehQk Like The Economist on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheEconomist/ Follow The Economist on Twitter: https://twitter.com/theeconomist Follow us on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/theeconomist/ Follow us on LINE: http://econ.st/1WXkOo6 Follow us on Medium: https://medium.com/@the_economist
Date: 
2017-04-23 23:28:09
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