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  • Nate Scharping

Meet the Companies Trying to Put Humans Back on the Moon

Blue Origin, SpaceX and a bevy of small companies are competing to be first to return to the lunar surface.

The rocket’s flare is sudden and brilliant, a blurring horizontal column of whooshing fire. Just as quickly, the bright jet flickers out of existence, the few seconds of burn enough complete the test.


A pause in the control room, then applause ripples around. The group retires to a test cell nearby, where there are speeches and photos; a giant ribbon is cut.


Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has just completed the first test of their Vortex rocket at a brand new test facility in central Wisconsin. It’s an upper stage rocket, far smaller than the behemoths SpaceX and Blue Origin use to escape the pull of Earth’s gravity, meant to help spacecraft move and maneuver once they reach space.


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