The Infineon Company has made a great contribution to the many growing companies that are developing aerospace products for military purposes or for the scientific exploration of space.
To support these companies, NASA is launching its Next Giant Leap campaign. (See Figure 2.) The agency says on its website:
This next decade of exploration will be an exciting time of rapid technological development and testing. In December 2014, we'll conduct the first test flight of Orion. In 2015, the New Horizons mission will fly by Pluto and see the icy world up close for the first time…
Many more missions will follow on the Path to Mars. In our lifetimes, NASA and the world will take the next giant leap to explore the Red Planet.
NASA and the European Space Agency are using their scientific missions to advance the knowledge of the space environment and to explore the possibilities that this environment offers to mankind.
The scientific interest is not the only reason to explore the space frontier. Some companies are exploring the possibility of offering space trips for commercial purposes, including SpaceX. (See Figure 3.) The company says on its website:
Under a $1.6 billion contract with NASA, SpaceX will fly numerous cargo resupply missions to the ISS, for a total of at least 12 — and in the near future, SpaceX will carry crew as well. Dragon was designed from the outset to carry astronauts and now, under a $440 million agreement with NASA, SpaceX is making modifications to make Dragon crew-ready. SpaceX is the world's fastest-growing provider of launch services. Profitable and cash-flow positive, the company has nearly 50 launches on its manifest, representing close to $5 billion in contracts. These include commercial satellite launches as well as NASA missions.
The main goal of companies like SpaceX is to allow people to explore space, and the most important factor is the containment of costs by means of reusable rockets.
SpaceX believes a fully and rapidly reusable rocket is the pivotal breakthrough needed to substantially reduce the cost of space access. SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket currently carries a list price of about $54 million. However, the cost of fuel for each flight is only around $200,000 — about 0.4% of the total. The majority of the launch cost comes from building the rocket, which flies only once. Compare that to a commercial airliner. Each new plane costs about the same as Falcon 9, but can fly multiple times per day, and conduct tens of thousands of flights over its lifetime. Following the commercial model, a rapidly reusable space launch vehicle could reduce the cost of reaching Earth orbit by a hundredfold.
What do you think of the utilization of space aircraft for scientific (NASA, ESA) or commercial (SpaceX) purposes? Do you think the success of radiation qualification campaigns by companies producing the ICs mounted in the space vehicles is correlated with the success of space missions and commercial flights?