SpaceX Inspirational4 – Putting members Together To Create An Out Of This World Concept
SpaceX Inspiration is a new unmanned space exploration program. It was founded in February 2021. The name is taken from a famous line from one of George C. Scott’s novels where the character Fred Sanford says, “The cosmos is but a playground, and we are its playmates.” That is what astronauts say about space. Many billions of starships have passed through the black hole, some very close to our own. A robotic probe has orbited Venus, and studies by NASA’s Space Shuttle proved that water is present on Mars.
So why do we want to go to space? Some space enthusiasts want to see the moon, some want to see Mars, and others want to see the mysteries of Jupiter’s moon Jovus. That is why it is important to secure funding for a private company that will design and construct a mission to study one of these celestial bodies. Private spaceflight companies such as SpaceX Inspiration4, under the leadership of startup aerospace engineer Paul ® Smith and former NASA astronaut Mark McCaleb, have made it their goal to design and construct a flying unmanned spacecraft capable of reaching and orbiting one of these celestial bodies, if funded in time.
They believe this can be done using technologies similar to that used in helping to develop the reusable spacecraft concept for the U.S. government’s Space Shuttle Program. They call their design reusable launch vehicle. This is not a novel idea. Actually, many space programs throughout the history of manned space flight utilize technologies similar to those used in reusable launch vehicles, like fuel cells and turboprops.
The concept of reusable launch vehicles is nothing new, but now a team of entrepreneurial engineers from SpaceX Inspiration4, based in Hawthorne, California, is turning that concept into a real business opportunity and into a potential space flight participant. Called the X Prize Group, the group consists of nine members who come from a variety of backgrounds, with an emphasis on achieving goals not for the glory of winning, but for the sake of technology and the knowledge that knowledge brings to the spaceflight community. These members have also joined together under the broad banner of Inspirational4 to pool their skills and knowledge for the common goal of reaching an asteroid or a comet and putting people on the moon or Mars.
One member of the group is aerospace engineer Todd Mitchell, who has been working with reusable launch vehicle technologies since he received his master’s degree in combustion dynamics in 1990. He then worked for two years at Kennedy Space Center as a research associate studying astronaut applications. A launch would require him to demonstrate the use of flame dissipation analysis using solid fuel and liquid oxygen. This is a very specialized area and NASA has specific guidelines and requirements for design. Once he had satisfactorily completed this part of his training, Mr. Mitchell took a leave of absence from NASA and pursued an innovative entrepreneurial career in starting a spaceflight and communications company called Kaspersky Lab.
The company was started with only six members in late 2021 when Mr. Mitchell and his colleague Mike Johnson decided to leave NASA to seek private industry funding for their work. They had never before flown on a space vehicle, so they knew they had to start with a good foundation. It also meant they had to pick a subject matter they were passionate about. After doing some due diligence, they settled on sending astronauts to study the phenomenon known as black hole radiation. It was a topic they knew a lot about and they felt very passionate about.
There are many technical details to cover and there are lots of equations to solve. But this is an exciting area of engineering and it was thrilling to join. Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Johnson are also pursuing a plan to launch a crewed mission to explore the moon, which will test the limits of space. That may be far more important to our society than sending astronauts to an asteroid or comet.