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BBC World Service

SpaceX launch could pave way for private sector funding

David Brancaccio May 22, 2012
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David Brancaccio: Actually, beyond global. The private company SpaceX today launched an unmanned rocket into space this morning, carrying cargo for the international space station.

BBC science correspondent Jonathan Amos joins us from London. Jonathan, good morning.

Jonathan Amos: Good morning David.

Brancaccio: What do you make of this private sector effort to participate in space exploration?

Amos: Well it’s a very interesting new development, one has to say. I mean, if you look around at the world government’s at the moment, it’s pretty clear to everybody that money is short. And so if you are going to go into space — which is a notoriously expensive business — then you’re going to have to find more efficient ways to do it. And perhaps contracting out to the private sector is the way to go; we’re going to find out in the next few days how successful SpaceX are, because this is a demonstration flight. But if it goes well, then a $1.6 billion contract will kick in, and they will take over cargo resupply to the space station for NASA.

Brancaccio: Do you think there are enough entrepreneurial folk out there who want to get in to this very risky business — to sustain private sector efforts in space?

Amos: I think NASA has had no shortage of companies who have come forward wanting to do this — some very new names, like SpaceX, but some traditional as well, like Boeing, are also trying to get into this private venture. I think one of the key things we’re going to see in the next few months, the next couple of years, is how much money NASA has to play the seed-funding game, if you will, in order to bring these companies on. Because they have said: yes, we’re prepared to put our own money into these ventures, but we do need a little bit of help from government because some of these companies will not deliver in the end. Some politicians are unhappy about public funds being spent on things that will never materialize.

Brancaccio: The BBC’s Jonathan Amos in London, thank you very much. 

Amos: It’s great, David.

 

How We Survive
How We Survive
Climate change is here. Experts say we need to adapt. This series explores the role of technology in helping humanity weather the changes ahead.