We’re huge fans of innovation in the logistics space.
Which is why we’re taking our hats off to SpaceX for delivering 7,000 lbs of cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) this week using a reusable rocket – the Falcon 9. As a result, the launch costs “only” $90 million (of which $200,000 went to fuel).
Given that the ISS orbits at about 250 miles, that comes out to about $50,000 mile/ton. Which sounds expensive but is far cheaper than $250,000 it costs NASA for the same shipment.
Check out how you might have booked this shipment as a freight quote on Freightos.
“Where’s my inflatable room?”Ever heard that from a customer? Well, SpaceX may well have, if that unusual cargo had been in transit for more than the scheduled two days.
NASA awarded the company a commercial orbital transportation services contract in 2006, to design and demonstrate a launch system to resupply cargo to the ISS. This is but the latest of several missions already made to the ISS under the agreement. And check out their company’s mission statement: “to revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.”
And of course having unusual cargo, an unusual carrier and an unusual destination, calls for an unusual cargo vessel. Dragon is the name of the space cargo ship that just delivered 7,000 pounds of freight, including the inflatable room.
Spacex’s cargo ship ‘Dragon’
Space Delivery As Science Fiction
A Space cargo ship sounds like science fiction. And until recently they were exactly that, with probably the two most famous being the Millennium Falcon (Star Wars) and the Nostromo (Aliens). The Muppets, too, get an honorable mention for delivering ham with their Pigs In Space skits.
But freight in space has actually also been science fact, starting way back in 1960, when one Wernher von Braun opined back “We have a logistics problem coming up in space.”
Space Delivery As Science Fact
So what was the first cargo in space? The U.S. flag that Neil Armstrong’s planted on the moon doesn’t count – it was checked in as cabin baggage.
Well, delivering things in space only became necessary when there was somewhere, someone and something; three things in short supply up there. The first semi-permanent something was Salyut 1 space station (1971), but the first space station to be around long enough to warrant freight movements was the ISS (the seventh iteration of space stations).
A Russian Proton rocket launched the control module, and space shuttle Endeavour, made it’s the first delivery, another construction module. Progress M1-3 which followed soon after, was the first ship to carry supplies. Then came NASA’s SPACEHAB Logistics Double Module, which provided a total cargo capacity of up to 4,536 kilograms (10,000 pounds).
Up there in the space-bound cargo stakes, in 2001, Pizza Hut became the first company in history to deliver pizza to residents living in outer space
International Space Station
Forwarders Get Ready For Outer Space
UN/LOCODE better hurry up and create a function numeral for spaceports, because there are already twelve commercial space ports. And maybe another function numeral for space stations, too.
Leading logistics providers are no doubt already looking to get in early. The next big trade lane after China’s OBOR might just be way up there. There’s plenty of factors for those pioneering forwarders to consider though. For instance, how do you factor in time dilation when quoting for those longer hauls?