2017 is a great year to be alive and keeping up with space endeavours. Private spaceflight is growing dramatically and it's about to get bigger with both Blue Origin and SpaceX making incredible strides in the private space industry.
Falcon Heavy Debut
SpaceX's Falcon heavy class rocket is set to lift off later in the year from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. SpaceX has quite the reputation. They landed Falcon 9, the first rocket to go into space and come back down safely. They did this on land and on a drone ship. When Falcon Heavy launches, it will become the most powerful rocket in the world, succeeding the Delta IV rocket. It will cost up to 90 million US dollars to launch 8,000 kg into GTO. The first stage boasts a massive 27 Merlin class engines, compared to the 9 Merlin class engines on the Falcon 9.
Final Countdown for the Lunar XPrize
The Google Lunar XPrize is in its last year. 4 teams remain in the competition to win the 20 million dollars prize for landing a rover on the moon and travelling 500 meters on the Moon's surface. An additional 5 million dollars is available for discovering water ice on the Moon and another 5 million is available for the second team to launch and complete the mission. The 4 teams must launch by the end of 2017 before the competition ends.
Blue Origin Launching People Into Space
Blue Origin, founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, hopes to send people into space on a suborbital trajectory. The company has launched and landed five New Shepard rockets in the past 2 years. The company hopes to launch tourists into space by 2018. Blue Origin have not yet stated how much a ticket will cost but other private space tourism companies will charge you between $150,000 and $250,000.
SpaceX will launch a Crewed Dragon Variant
SpaceX hopes to launch a crewed version of the Dragon 2 capsule that currently resupplies the International Space Station at the moment. According to NASA, the launch is set to happen around November of this year. This capsule will not have a crew on board until mid-2018.
Cassini's Grand Finale
The Cassini spacecraft that recently dove between Saturn and its rings will end its mission in the Saturnian system in a spectacular manner. The spacecraft will do a final close flyby of Titan before plunging itself into Saturns Atmosphere where it will burn up and become part of the planet. Cassini will continue to beam back data about the planet and it's atmosphere until contact is lost. Cassini is set to close the final chapter of its 20-year mission in mid-September.