The start of SpaceX spaceflights.
SpaceX first launched astronauts into space on Saturday, on a mission announced by NASA leaders as the beginning of a new chapter in human spaceflights.
“We have relied on Russia to transport astronauts into space since 2011, and this momentum is leading us again with great ambitions for human space flight ahead,” Jefferies analyst Sheila Kahyaoglu told CNBC after the launch.
In short, SpaceX Demo 2’s first manned launch means everything from the US. USA Controlling your own future in space until you unlock the possibility of human life on Mars.
The United States has done this before, but some time has passed. NASA put its first man into orbit 58 years ago, landed people on the moon 51 years ago, and began launching the space shuttle into orbit almost 40 years ago. Those accomplishments are certainly historic, but the United States has not returned humans to the moon since the Apollo program ended. And rising costs, as well as higher-than-expected risk, led to the end of the space shuttle program in 2011.
Part of the meaning of the SpaceX launch has been hidden in the news cycle. NASA officials hoped the launch would be a unifying moment for the country. But the SpaceX Demo-2 mission has been left in the background by the global coronavirus pandemic and widespread protests by the United States following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
NASA astronaut Bob Behnken noted those two situations in a CNBC interview on Tuesday, and said he hopes astronauts’ view of Earth will help spread an inspiring message.
“There are no really observable limits or borders from space. You see that it is a unique planet with a shared atmosphere. It is our shared place in this universe, ”Behnken told CNBC. “I think that perspective, as we go through things like the pandemic or see the challenges across our nation or around the world, we recognize that we all face them together.”
To better grasp the importance of last weekend’s launch, CNBC spoke to Wall Street analysts, private equity investors, and industry experts.
“A private company has just accomplished a feat that has so far only been accomplished by nation states.” Quilty Analytics founder Chris Quilty told CNBC. “The launch opens up the possibility of a new era of sustained and private commercial activity in space.”
In fact, the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft is the first to be designed, built, and launched into space by a private entity. That is an achievement that only three nations, the United States, Russia and China, have previously achieved.
But this success is even greater for SpaceX, as Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas explained in a note to clients on Monday.
“The primary role of a private commercial space company in the Demo-2 mission is very important and defines this new era of space, in our opinion,” said Jonas.
In essence, NASA took a new approach to developing a replacement for the space shuttle when it partnered with SpaceX and Boeing.
Instead of the agency taking the lead in the design and construction of a spacecraft, with the help of contractors, NASA through the Commercial Crew program awarded development funds to the two companies and then worked alongside the companies.
Silicon Valley Bank Managing Director Ann Kim told CNBC that NASA’s partnership with SpaceX has led to an unprecedented low price for American taxpayers. “Working with national partners will produce massive cost savings, increase public and private funding, and accelerate the growth of the United States’ space economy,” said Kim.
This model also means that SpaceX retains ownership of the spacecraft it developed, as NASA is acquiring services from Elon Musk’s company, purchasing seats for its astronauts. That allows SpaceX to use the Crew Dragon capsules for other missions, such as private passenger flights. This represents a new dynamic in the space industry, Chad Anderson, managing partner of Space Capital, told CNBC.
“Previously, NASA has been on both sides of the equation: it’s been supply and demand,” Anderson said. “You can’t have a flourishing market when you only have one actor and only a few companies that help them get there.”