How far off are companies from frequent space travel?

Published 5:46 am Monday, June 21, 2021

Editor’s note: Don Lee is taking a break from his column this week. This is representation of a piece from Feb. 16, 2019.
We have not visited space lately so we will check into some of companies and their successes.
I remember when I was in high school, my science teacher told the class, “In spite of Flash Gordon’s escapades, mortal men will never make out into space since the escape velocity is about seven miles per second.”
Now, it is commonplace so that only, in rare instances, are the space rocket lift offs reported in the news.
One of the space companies we have not heard about lately is Blue Origin funded by Jeff Bezos.
He is principal owner of Amazon Company and is one of the richest man in the world. He has said that he is committed to spend one billion dollars a year on the space company, Blue Origin. He chose the name because the view of the earth from space looks blue.
Blue Origin had predicted they would be orbiting humans by 2020, but I think that timing has slipped a bit.
Bezos built his own engines; the latest one that I have found is BE-4. He surely likes the color blue, since the BE stands for Blue Engine. Seven of these of these engines power one of his rockets, which he has named after the astronaut John Glenn.
The New Glenn rocket has a diameter of 23 feet and uses seven of these BE-4 engines to provide almost four million pounds of thrust to lift it into space.
The company has been fortunate in reusing the first stage by returning and landing it vertical with no mishaps.
They plan to have a ship or barge in the Atlantic Ocean for landing of rockets sent up from Cape Canaveral.
This BE-4 rocket engine burns liquid methane and oxygen in the first stage and then fuels the expendable second stage with liquid hydrogen and oxygen.
They expect to be able to reuse the first stage at least 100 times, which cuts the cost a lot.
Space X’s Elon Musk has a knack for getting publicity.
On Feb. 6, 2018, he launched his private, electric Tesla Roadster, which he used to commute to work, into an obit beyond Mars.
He posted a picture of it as it was leaving the earth. It has “Starman,” a mannequin, dressed in a space suit, sitting in the driver’s seat with the convertible top down.
The earth is in the background.
The rocket he used was the Falcon Heavy. He offered the payload to NASA, but they decided it was too risky sending a scientific payload aboard an untested rocket.
So, Elon decided to send the silliest payload he could imagine after someone suggested sending an electric Tesla 3 sedan up.
So they did.

Don Lee, a pilot flying out of Lawrence County Airport since 1970, has been in charge of equipment and grounds maintenance for the last several years. He can be reached at

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