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"It’s a fraction of the business today," he said.
Chris Quilty, a Raymond James analyst, said that without the shuttle, the United States no longer has a vehicle to put humans into space, calling into question the need for rockets.
"The rocket does not have a mission. It does not have a payload," he said. "There’s no lunar lander. It’s literally a rocket to nowhere."
Industry changes are spurring "some truly innovative commercial companies coming into existence," such as Space Exploration Technologies, Quilty said. In December 2010, SpaceX became only the fourth entity — after the U.S. Russian and Chinese governments — to put a capsule into space.
Rocketdyne’s Maser said space travel is essentially about physics and economics. Only the financial part has changed, he said.
"Fundamentally, how we leave the planet hasn’t changed," he said. "We haven’t come up with a brilliant new way to do that."
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