It’s a brave new world for commercial space flight, and the possibilities are endless; it could become a major industry, like the land, sea, and air transport industries have become. One study has predicted that space tourism will take off within five years as soon as prices go down to $100,000-200,000 per roundtrip ticket.
NASA has given the green light to develop an inflatable habitat in space so we can create our own little paradise up there on earth where we can live without the need for gravity. Intelsat and SES have partnered up to create the first manned commercial space station called ICON. It will serve as a platform for research and, if successful, could pave the way for future commercial space stations that are already in development by Bigelow Aerospace.
They say that one of the biggest obstacles to overcome is getting past people’s fear of flying in space (and its risks). The other obstacle is getting the cost down, so it is affordable to more people. Some innovations could provide a solution to the expensive cost barrier users fear and make space tourism more attainable and profitable.
Intelsat New Skies
Intelsat New Skies and SES-13 are both spacecraft that are tipped with thrusters to control their orbit, reduce fuel consumption and provide an economic benefit by lowering the cost of access to space. The fact that these satellites are thrusting forward instead of up or down means they don’t need expensive propulsion systems, which is an obvious saving for a commercial customer.
The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is developing a new winged spacecraft called HTV designed to take humans into deep space for the first time since the Apollo missions in 1971. The HTV will be carrying a new component that we have developed. It is called the Advanced Technology Demonstration Mission (ATDM) Laboratory, which will be mounted in an exposed position on the outside of the ISS. The ATDM Lab, a cylindrical module almost two meters in diameter, will support up to three astronauts and their experiments for a period of six months.
Virgin Galactic is another company that plans to reach space within five years as predicted for space tourism. NASA also predicts that within 2-5 years, Bigelow Aerospace (owned by Robert Bigelow) plans to have their expandable modules attached to the ISS and ready for human occupancy if all goes as planned.
Virgin Galactic plans to be the first commercial space tourism company to offer suborbital flights that will last approximately 9 minutes, allowing passengers to see the beauty of earth from above while they fly towards space.
The suborbital spaceship from Virgin Galactic will carry six passengers and two pilots to space before returning to earth for a runway landing. This marks the first time in more than fifty years that humans will have been able to experience the weightlessness of microgravity outside of NASA facilities or aircraft such as the zero gravity A300 jetliner designed by the company Zero Gravity Corp.
SES-8 is a satellite weighing 3,265 pounds. Its design permits it to create special “closed-loop” space stations that can be packed with life support systems, power systems, fuel cells, and other critical technologies that enable crews to live and work in orbit for long or even possibly become a space colony.
ViaSat is an American company that will deliver broadband services from its constellation of satellites positioned around the globe so users can enjoy HD streaming media and home security using the latest advanced satellite technology.
In April of 2012, SpaceX began developmental testing of a new type of booster called the Falcon 9. It is designed to create a reusable rocket that can greatly reduce the cost and complexity of launching satellites and crewed missions into space. The Falcon 9’s first stage will return for recovery so it can be reused; it will be powered by nine Merlin 1D engines and capable of lifting up to 12,000 pounds of payload into low-Earth orbit (LEO).
Blue Origin is also developing a new rocket called BE-4 that was first announced in 2007 – it was also originally codenamed “Slingshot.” In December 2013, they completed their second test firing at their West Texas test facility.
XCOR Aerospace is a company that is working on a suborbital vehicle called Lynx that will take off and land horizontally. The Lynx is designed to be a cost-effective way to get back and forth into space for tourism, microgravity research, satellite deployment, and other commercial space endeavors.
The Stratolaunch Systems Corp.
The Stratolaunch Systems Corp. plans to completely revolutionize the launch industry by developing an air-launch system capable of deploying rockets with payloads far larger than what current launch systems are capable of reaching orbit.
The Private Moon Express Mission
The private Moon Express mission focuses on mining the moon for valuable resources, such as helium-3, platinum group metals, and precious metals, with the goal of opening up a new commercial space industry that will benefit human civilization.
Capella Space is a company that aims to provide reliable space accessible to anyone who wants to step into space and help create a commercial space economy. They’ve already developed their first two spacecraft, which they plan to use in conjunction with their orbital real estate customer base to facilitate and support future missions throughout the solar system.
Novi Space is a company that plans to offer commercial suborbital flights from Las Cruces International Airport in New Mexico as early as 2018 to take people on suborbital trips to space and back again. Their passenger service will be more affordable than the typical cost of a regular space tour.
Virgin Galactic’s The Spaceship Company is designing and building the first commercial spaceline spaceships, known as SpaceShipTwo, which will take passengers into space for several minutes of weightlessness before returning to earth for a runway landing.
Blue Origin’s Tungsten Block 2
Blue Origin’s Tungsten Block 2 rocket engine. It was successfully tested at Blue Origin’s developmental test site near Van Horn, Texas, in November 2013. The engine is designed for use in the New Shepard suborbital spaceship.
Boeing’s CST-100 capsule
Boeing’s CST-100 capsule is designed to carry astronauts or cargo into low-Earth orbit and return to earth as an emergency abort vehicle or for crew transfer. They plan on using their capsule with the United Launch Alliance Atlas V and Boeing Delta IV rockets to launch astronauts into space beginning in 2023, followed by commercial flights in 2024.
SpaceX’s Dragon V2 manned spacecraft was unveiled on May 29, 2014; it will be able to ferry up to seven astronauts and supplies back and forth from Earth orbit so that humans can once again explore beyond our own planet.
The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft was launched in 2016; it will then spend three years traveling to the asteroid Bennu where scientists hope to gather samples of the asteroid and return them to earth by 2023. Orbiting several hundred miles above Earth, Skyward high-resolution cameras will provide an unprecedented view of the planet’s surface in near real-time. The cameras include six 8K Enhanced HD video sensors for stereoscopic views and a 360° panoramic camera for a complete view of an area thousands of miles across.
The United Launch Alliance (ULA) rocket is a four-stage rocket that converts to a five-stage version depending on the mission. The Atlas V comes in four enhanced, standard, solid, and streamlined with optional RS-68A engine boosters for added thrust. The Delta IV comes in single or dual configurations and can be used for heavy-lift launchers.
The Aerion Sky cruise missile
The Aerion Sky cruise missile is a high-speed, low-observable (stealthy) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that Aerion Corporation developed. The business plan for the company includes three reusable vehicles that each carry six cruise missiles and one vehicle with ten cruise missiles that are carried on different aircraft and flown around the world in air shows.
The McDonnell Douglas TECH MED-P
The McDonnell Douglas TECH MED-P is a technology demonstration spaceplane based on the popular DC-X spaceplane program by McDonnell Douglas. It has a wingspan of just over 39 meters, with an expected maximum speed of Mach 8 and a maximum altitude of 20 kilometers (.12 mi).
SpaceShipOne was a private spacecraft built by the Scaled Composites as part of the X Prize competition that launched in 2004. The vehicle was funded by Paul Allen’s Vulcan Productions and Wall Street firm Planetary Ventures and designed and operated by aerospace engineer Burt Rutan.