NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 29, 2005

Private companies such as SpaceX make are planning to transport ordinary citizens into orbit at a fraction of the cost of a NASA-funded rocket, says USA Today.

Observers estimate that about 100,000 citizens could be riding into space by 2020. However, the high cost and slow pace of government programs could leave potential space tourists waiting for a long time. So private corporations are hoping to fill the niche:

  • The average cost for a NASA space shuttle flight is $1.3 billion, equivalent to the price of five Boeing 777 jets.
  • Virgin Galactic is planning on acquiring five space ships that would fly out of two launch bases in the United States; the initial price for a two-hour flight would start at $200,000, including training.

There are challenges, however. Space vehicles are complex, and going from suborbital to orbital flight requires 60 to 70 times more energy. Moreover, with a death rate of about 4 percent, many consider space travel too risky. But entrepreneurs who want to put people into space are driven to develop safe and cost effective spaceships.

"Private industry may be the genesis of a new generation of activities," according to Konrad Dannengerg, a propulsion expert on Apollo.

Source: Kevin Maney, "Private Sector Enticing Public into Final Frontier: Entrepreneurs Turn Sights into Craft Capable of Travel into Space," USA Today, June 17, 2005.

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