Private Space Travel Companies and Spaceships

New On February 19, 2016: SpaceShipTwo

The center vehicle is SpaceShipTwo. The rest of the design in the mother ship.
The center vehicle is SpaceShipTwo. The rest of the design in the mother ship. | Source

NASA's Top 7 Private Aerospace Companies

In August 2011, NASA chose the following commercial companies for aerospace transport manufacture. They were chosen to design and build a commercial spaceship. Several others followed and a cadre of 63 companies became known as the NASA Commercial Crew.

  1. Armadillo Aerospace - Heath, Texas
  2. Near Space Corp. - Tillamook, Oregon
  3. Masten Space Systems - based in Mojave, California
  4. Up Aerospace Inc. - Highlands Ranch, Colorado
  5. Virgin Galactic - Mojave, California and Spaceport America; owners of The Spaceship Company manufacturer.
  6. Whittinghill Aerospace LLC - Camarillo, California
  7. XCOR - Mojave, California

Space Taxis are a primary focus of the privatized US Space Program through 2025.

Important Early Additions

  1. Planetary Resources - This company has put hundreds of telescopes into the sky as well as begun plans to mine asteroids for iron ore and water.
  2. SpaceX, built their own ship and contracted with NASA to make deliveries to the International Space Station. SpaceX plans to deliver astronauts as well by the middle 2010s, relieving our dependence on Russian shuttles.

SpaceShipOne

SpaceShipOne, at the huge National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC.
SpaceShipOne, at the huge National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. | Source

SpaceX Dragon Docked at the ISS.

Source

A Record Breaker to Rival Chuck Yaeger

The dream of privatized space flight saw it's first concrete step toward reality in June 2004 when the pilot of a science fiction-like contest rocketed the SpaceShipOne rocket plane 1/10 of a mile into the upper reaches of the atmosphere to become the first private-sector astronaut to fly into outer space.

This ranked at the top of US aerial achievements that included the 1903 Wright Brothers launch at Kitty Hawk, the formation of the US Air Force during World War II, and the breaking of the sound barrier with a boom by Chuck Yeager in 1947.

The 2004 event may have been bigger than the Moon Landing of July 1969, 35 years earlier.

North Carolina 1903, the Moon 1969, Mars 2018

The Wright Flyer, December 17, 1903.
The Wright Flyer, December 17, 1903.

Kitty Hawk NC

A markerKitty Hawk NC -
Kitty Hawk, NC, USA
[get directions]

A markerMuroc Air Base -
Edwards AFB, CA, USA
[get directions]

Mike Melvill and SpaceShipOne

Pilot Mike Melvill was so excited he could have burst after his space ride in 2004. he was also pleased that his backup guidance system worked, since he'd flown 22 miles off course in a matter of seconds.

Melvill made his mark in space for senior citizens as well on that voyage, since he was 63 years old at the time. Seniors may well be able to travel into space, pilot the ships, and lead exploration teams without adverse effects of multi-G weights during gravitational exit from earth. Melvill effectively lengthened the possible working careers of space pilots while he was floating M & Ms around his cockpit at Zero-G. He had a lot of fun doing both.

Another first is attached to this historic suborbital trip. Patti Grace Smith, with the Federal Aviation Administration's (FFA) in commercial space transportation, bestowed upon pilot Melvill the first astronaut wings ever awarded by the FAA and the Department of Transportation. Private space flight was recognized and on its way forward at this point.

The stumbling block is that space flight is expensive. For SpaceShipOne, sponsor Paul Allen spent in excess of $20,000,000.

October Sky Revisited

October is indeed a memorable month, let alone a historic one, for space flight, rocketry in the life of Homer Hickam, and natural celestial activities.

On October 4, 2004, the X PRIZE Foundation awarded the winning prize of $10,000,000 as the Ansari X PRIZE, to SpaceShipOne and its parent company, Scaled Composites. This was only the beginning of more research, more prizes, more competition, and more hunger to get into space and at the planets nearest us.

The X Prize was based on the famous Orteig Prize. That prize was won in 1927 by pilot Charles Lindbergh when he became the first person to fly non-stop from New York to Paris. This and other incentive prizes created the huge aerospace industry we have today. These incentives helped bring us from Kitty Hawk in 1903 to the Moon in 1969, just 66 years. Incentives in the 21st century will spur commercial space flight as they have catalyzed business and jobs on earth.

In 2009, we're at the 5th Anniversary of the initial X-Prize already. Visit the site below and enter the Google Lunar X Prize T-Shirt design contest.

Spaceport America

Spaceport America is located in New Mexico and used for commercial space flight. Virgin Galactic is its the major flight service and others may be added.

Several additional spaceports have been proposed in these locations: Montana, Nevada, Texas, Utah, Mojave Ca, and at the Woomera Rocket Range in Australia (under the auspices of US company Kistler Aerospace). Further, individual US States have attempted to create plans for spaceports in the future, not all successfully.

New Mexico - Spaceport America

As of November 2009, a runway was substantially progressing at the New Mexico site. The New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) posted aerial photos taken on the website all during the construction process. The completed runway is 10,000 feet long and 200 feet wide, finished in 2010.

The runway will handle space tourism and commercial payload launches for Virgin Galactic, which is the the anchor company at Spaceport America. Launch training and other activities will also be conducted, using the concrete runway. Other uses are forthcoming.

Spaceport America, New Mexico

A markerSpaceport America -
Spaceport America, New Mexico 87901, USA
[get directions]

The spaceport is selling a lot of tickets to space travel already in 2012 - 2013.

Womera Rocket Range

A markerWomera -
Woomera SA 5720, Australia
[get directions]

Highlight on Woomera

This South Australian rocket test site and launch area was well used in the 1960-70s and is still equipped with launch pads and other equipment.

The name is Aboriginal and means "spear thrower", much like the Native North American Axolotl. Spear throwing is quite apt a concept for the launch of missiles and other space-faring items.

The Heritage Centre and a missile park on site at the Woomera Test Range are available for visitors to see. The full Woomera rocket and missile complex is a large area suitable to the operations of a future space port, if interest increases.

85-Foot Space Antenna at Woomera

This 85-foot antenna operated in Woomera (Island Lagoon), at Australia Deep Space Station (DSS) 41, established August 1960. First DSS outside of USA.
This 85-foot antenna operated in Woomera (Island Lagoon), at Australia Deep Space Station (DSS) 41, established August 1960. First DSS outside of USA. | Source

Space Tourism Predictions and Results

Commercial space flight companies in America predicted that by 2012, commercial travel to outer space would be routine. Not quite routine even in 2013, SpaceX was able to begin hauling provisions to the International Soace Station, a big step forward into commercial space missions. At the same time tickets for the first space tourism flights were already sold by the hundreds.

The eager companies ready to fly include the Orbital Sciences Corp., Scaled Composites, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpacerX), Virgin Galactic, Planetary Resources (space mining) and several others.

These firms look into the near future and see space vacationers and space merchants. In fact, the Galactic Space Suite Hotel seems on schedule set to open in the mid-2010s, despite the conditions of weightlessness that customers will endure.

Even NASA has developed a Commercial Orbital Transportation Services division.

Further into space and time, new spacecraft is soon to be powered by solar sails that use the solar winds (simplistically, waves of charged solar particles) for energy to travel a thousand light years on a single mission. The lengthy time required will be remediated by techniques straight out of sci-fi films -

Robots will man the long-distance ships at first and these spacecraft will carry cryogenically frozen human zygotes that will come to life sometime during the journey.

While America is ahead in this race to commercial outer space, Russia and France at least are thinking about heading this way very soon [FoxNews, 11-05-2009].

© 2009 Patty Inglish

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Comments and Ideas 12 comments

MikeNV profile image

MikeNV 7 years ago from Henderson, NV

I wonder what kind of "buyers remorse" you have after dropping down a couple million for this trip? And who is going to be the Physician to accompany the space travelers? Astronauts are highly trained and mentally ready for the challenge, I wonder if the average person with a little too much cash on hand will be able to handle it?


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

Yes, in preventive medicine/public health classes we studied how much of an increase in demand for medical personnel would occur after space tourism and commerical space flight became routine.

I suspect that an appropriate physical exam and medical history would be necessary for space travel; but I also expect someone to die in transit before requirements are tightened.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

The X Prize group is offering, summer 2010, a prize for private efforts to clean up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Great group, that.


mason 6 years ago

I think this is one of the few times imo when privatization is a really good idea. Whether we think it’s necessary or not, we need to continue to develop new forms of space travel and technology to facilitate it. What the ppl whose only argument is “we have too many problems down here to be worrying about this,” they fail to understand the two most important implications of aeronautical research. The first is for national defense… it’s bad enough that nasa has to rely on Russia to ferry them to the ISS. If we keep going at this rate, our disadvantage will only grow as they continue to develop new technologies in their space program while we pump the brakes on ours. Is air and space superiority something you really want the Russians to have? It doesn’t seem like a good idea for any one country to have, let alone one whom we have a sketchy history with. The second is that with aeronautical research comes a flood of new technologies, most of which are very applicable to us down on earth. For example, if it wasn’t for nasa, we wouldn’t have the chips that we use for non-invasive biopsies, solar energy, and a whole litany of other things (http://www.thespaceplace.com/nasa/spinoffs.html#To... has a good number of inventions that most of us don’t know came from our space program). And if you’re one of those ppl that are so skeptical (or cynical imo) that you still don’t think that any of the things on this list warrant a larger investment in a privatized space industry, just remember that while you sleep at night, you most likely have nasa to thank for that, too. If you use any type of home security system, chances are they use infrared and laser technology that came out of nasa’s research (just look at the adt security infrared camera page. They even admit that the technology came from nasa!)


Spiritwind profile image

Spiritwind 5 years ago

I moved to New Mexico because the spaceport authority is being built here. I am excited to see what is going to happen in this land of enchantment


daskittlez69 profile image

daskittlez69 5 years ago from midwest

Thanks for the hub. I remember reading about Virgin getting involved a year or two ago, but completely forgot about it. Here's your up!


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Thanks for comments! Mfg of spaceships will be interesting to watch. And amazing.


GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 5 years ago from USA

Hi Patty - This is a very informative and enjoyable article, and I think you for putting it together for us to study.

Gus :-)))


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

I wondered if Mission to Mars and mining the asteroid field would actuallly happen, Gus, but it seems it will! Thanks for commenting and I hope you'll join me in keeping an eye on space travel. I think it's going to be very expensive for a long time.


Cagsil profile image

Cagsil 5 years ago from USA or America

I don't mind the privatizing of space flight. I even realize it is very expensive and if it's brought to the consumers, as it is being tried, then I also see 2012 not being a realistic goal for an everyday enjoyment. There are many people who can barely live now, much less, attempt to afford a "vacation" type space flight. Many things would have to change before that specific aspect would become real. It's an interesting thought, just not realistic. However, I loved your hub. Great references to our past accomplishments. Thank you for sharing Patty. :)


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

2012? Most people will never afford space travel, with also having pay for training to ride. Probably the richest interested people will go often and receive discounts, and there will be prizes of space travel just as there are prizes of plastic curgery given by radio shows and companies now. Companies may pay to send some of their workers to and from space regularly as well - but let's see how good the spaceships are.


Patricia 3 years ago

To all readers of Spaceport's. If Bigelow Aerospace is wliilng to locate to Wallops Island and bring ULA (Boeing/LockMart)and their Atlas V. I feel this would make Virginia's Eastern Shore into the greatest Commercial Spaceport in the U.S if not the world. I truly hope the enviormental impact finding's, from the foot print of a HLV such as the Atlas will not be much larger then Orbital Science's Tuarus II. There could not be a better mix of education, roads and railway growth. That wouldn't even include the growth of service industries like support,lodging, reasurant's and must of all a new hospital. WOW, I'm excited and I don't even live there!Goodluck Wallop's & Spaceports

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