Time to cash in on the space race revival

The space race isn't over: ESA astronaut
The space race isn't over: ESA astronaut   

The space race might have started in the mid-1950s, but it's not over yet, according to British astronaut Timothy Peake, who told CNBC that competition around space travel is alive and well.

Indeed, Peake argued that businesses and national agencies alike would benefit from a renewed interest in space exploration.

"We've got commercial vehicles being developed for low-earth orbit, and of course the international space agencies are looking ahead at going back to the moon," he told CNBC's Squawk Box Europe on Friday.

"The space race is very much not behind us—it's ahead of us. It's extremely exciting times."

SpaceX Dragon attached to International Space Station
NASA

Peake is set to become the first British astronaut to board the International Space Station (ISS) when he departs on a 6-month mission in November. So far, 13 nations have sent astronauts to the station, including Canada, Japan, Italy and the US.

Research conducted aboard the ISS presented opportunities for industry, he said, especially in material sciences, metal alloy research which could aid aviation, and medical research into the human body.

It comes as Elon Musk's aerospace company SpaceX successfully launched its sixth resupply mission to the ISS earlier this week. It is set to dock later on Friday, and will bring those on-board treats including space's first coffee machine.

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This project was contracted out by the European Space Agency (ESA) to Italian coffee company Lavazzo and engineering firm Argotec, and is just one example of business working alongside space agencies.

Argotec was the sole food supplier for ESA astronauts from 2009 to 2014, and is still producing meals for Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti.

"Of course, we are working on other innovative projects," the company's Managing Director David Avino told CNBC via email.

"In general, the know-how acquired thanks to our projects has an immediate application not only in space but also on Earth," he added, highlighting that the company could now produce space food with a shelf-life of three years.

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These kind of commercial contracts are ultimately giving national agencies a chance to focus on more challenging projects, Peake argued.

"Low-earth orbit will start to become the domain of commercial industry and that will free up the international partners to use their valuable resources to look at going to the more challenging locations, exploring further out into the solar system….to asteroids to the moon and to Mars," he told CNBC.

"So there's an awful lot going on and the future of space flight is very bright indeed."