Axiom plans first private flight to space station, with crew launching aboard SpaceX capsule – CBS News

Axiom plans first private flight to space station, with crew launching aboard SpaceX capsule

March 5, 2020 / 6:55 PM / CBS News

A Houston company with deep NASA experience announced plans Thursday to launch a company-trained commander and three private citizens to the International Space Station as soon as the second half of next year. They would be launched aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon ferry ship. It would be the first fully commercial orbital space flight by non-government astronauts.

“This history-making flight will represent a watershed moment in the march toward universal and routine access to space,” Mike Suffredini, CEO of Houston-based Axiom Space and a former NASA space station program manager, said in a statement.

“This will be just the first of many missions to ISS to be completely crewed and managed by Axiom Space, a first for a commercial entity.”

An artist’s impression of a Crew Dragon spacecraft on final approach to the International Space Station. NASA

Citing Axiom’s “vast experience” in human spaceflight, the company statement said the yet-to-be-named crew will spend 10 days in space — two days in transit and eight days aboard the space station. Axiom will provide all “training, mission planning, hardware development, life support, medical support, crew provisions, hardware and safety certifications, on-orbit operations and overall mission management.”

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How much a seat might cost is not yet known and details of Axiom’s contract with SpaceX were not revealed.

On January 27, NASA selected Axiom Space and several partners to provide at least one commercial module to be attached to the space station as part of an on-going push to increase private-sector development in low-Earth orbit. The contract also calls for the eventual development of a stand-alone space station.

SpaceX and Boeing, meanwhile, are pressing ahead with work to ready commercially developed crew capsules, being developed under contract to NASA, for piloted launches later this year.

SpaceX is expected to launch its Crew Dragon spacecraft on an initial piloted test flight in the May-June timeframe with operational flights carrying NASA and partner nation astronauts to and from the space station starting later in the year.

Boeing is working to resolve software issues that cropped up during an unpiloted test fight of its CST-100 Starliner capsule last December before pressing ahead with either another unpiloted test or a crewed test flight.

In a departure from past practice, NASA will not own the Crew Dragon or Starliner capsules when testing is complete. Both companies are free to launch private, non-space station missions as well as flights to the NASA outpost that might include one or more space tourists or privately-funded researchers, assuming safety criteria are met.

Space Adventures, a company that brokered trips to the International Space Station for seven private citizens between 2001 and 2009, announced an agreement with SpaceX last month to launch up to four space tourists or other non professionals aboard the Crew Dragon capsule by mid 2022.

That crew will not visit the space station. Instead, the privately funded space tourists will enjoy views from a record-high orbit before returning to Earth. Space Adventures signed an agreement with Boeing in 2010 to offer unused Starliner seats to private citizens for visits to the space station, although no schedules have been announced.

The Axiom flight announced Thursday would be the first non-government piloted space flight to orbit the Earth.

“Since 2012, SpaceX has been delivering cargo to the International Space Station in partnership with NASA and later this year, we will fly NASA astronauts for the first time,” said SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell.

“Now, thanks to Axiom and their support from NASA, privately crewed missions will have unprecedented access to the space station, furthering the commercialization of space and helping usher in a new era of human exploration.”

First published on March 5, 2020 / 6:55 PM

© 2020 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Bill Harwood has been covering the U.S. space program full-time since 1984, first as Cape Canaveral bureau chief for United Press International and now as a consultant for CBS News. He covered 129 space shuttle missions, every interplanetary flight since Voyager 2’s flyby of Neptune and scores of commercial and military launches. Based at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Harwood is a devoted amateur astronomer and co-author of “Comm Check: The Final Flight of Shuttle Columbia.”

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The woman who paid $250, 000 to go into space – BBC News

The woman who paid $250,000 to go into space

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Ketty Maisonrouge has waited 15 years for a trip that she knows will be out of this world.

The 61-year-old business school professor signed up back in 2005 for the promise of five minutes in zero-gravity, paying $250,000 (£190,500) to travel beyond the earth’s atmosphere.

Now the company that sold her the ticket, Virgin Galactic, says it will finally begin flights this year. Its founder, Sir Richard Branson, will be on the first trip, and Mrs Maisonrouge won’t be far behind.

“Hopefully it will be as amazing as I think,” says Mrs Maisonrouge.

If all goes to plan, Virgin Galactic will be the first private company to take tourists into space. The company says 600 people have already purchased tickets, including celebrities like Justin Bieber and Leonardo DiCaprio.

But rival firms are close behind. Blue Origin, started by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has also starting speaking to possible passengers for trips it hopes to start this year, while SpaceX, founded by Tesla’s Elon Musk, announced in 2019 that a Japanese billionaire would be its first passenger for a trip around the moon.

Dreaming of space

In 2019, Swiss bank UBS released a report estimating space tourism could become a $3bn industry in the next 10 years.

For Virgin Galactic, early buyers such as Mrs Maisonrouge helped prove the demand was there for private space travel – even with ticket prices at a quarter of a million dollars.

“To be able to put products as expensive as space on the market in the first place does include a high premium,” explains Julia Hunter, a senior vice-president at Virgin Galactic responsible for the day-to-day running of the human spaceflight programme.

Mrs Maisonrouge’s love of space started early. She can still remember vividly the moment in July 1969 when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the moon.

When she learned that Virgin Galactic was offering to send ordinary travellers to space, she immediately rushed to sign up.

Since buying her ticket, Mrs Maisonrouge has kept her plans mostly private, sharing them only with family, close friends and her fellow “founders” – the group of original Virgin Galactic ticket holders.

In November 2019, a group of them got their first chance to try on the spacesuits – designed by sportswear brand Under Armour – which they will wear on their trip to space.

“For me, it was like the realisation that this is really going to happen soon,” says Mrs Maisonrouge. “When you’ve been waiting for 15 years, when you’ve been dreaming about it for as long as you can remember, you wonder until it happens if it will really happen.”

Unlike the astronauts from the legendary Apollo missions, who went through months of rigorous training and gruelling physical ordeals, Mrs Maisonrouge and her fellow space tourists will take just three days to train for their trip. Virgin Galactic says it could be shorter, but they want passengers to “understand the choreography” and “get the most” out of their experience.

She and fellow founders have also been given an early chance to visit Virgin Galactic’s terminal at Spaceport America, in the desert of New Mexico. The company has designed a lounge equipped with floor-to-ceiling windows to view the launches, a barista to make fresh coffee and an interactive walkway.

From here, Virgin Galactic’s tourists will board spaceships for a 90-minute round trip with just a few minutes in low-orbit. It’s a far more luxurious experience from the one that government astronauts have had.

Dan Hicks, who manages Spaceport America for the state of New Mexico, says Virgin Galactic is spearheading this new type of travel and that the facility will one day be a “full-up transportation hub for the space industry”.

Multi-million dollar trip

A quarter of a million dollars may seem like a hefty price tag for a tourist trip. But Virgin Galactic says it expects near-term demand for space flights to far outstrip supply, which could even cause the price of tickets to rise.

Seven private citizens have already paid for multi-million dollar tickets to go into space with Russian Soyuz spaceflights going back as far as 2001, making them the first space tourists.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) has also relied on Soyuz spaceships to take US astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) since it ended its shuttle program in 2011, paying approximately $86m per spot.

Nasa is now also turning to private enterprise. The agency has signed deals with SpaceX and Boeing to carry US astronauts. Those tickets don’t come cheap either – Nasa is paying SpaceX $55m per spot and Boeing $90m.

Spaceflights for government astronauts and space tourists are only part of the potential private space industry. Point-to-point travel that leaves Earth’s orbit could become a $20bn sector by 2030, according to UBS. By leaving the planet’s orbit, trips across the world would be much faster.

SpaceX has already released marketing material for a 40-minute flight from New York City to Shanghai, using its spaceflight technology.

That could mean far more of us get the chance to sample space travel, at least briefly.

The space travel industry has caught the eye not just of billionaire businessmen such as Sir Richard and Jeff Bezos, but also Wall Street investors. Virgin Galactic became the first human space flight company to list its shares on the stock market in October 2019.

For the many people hoping to make money from space tourism, 2020 could be the year when stellar promises really start to take off.

SpaceShipOne: The First Private Spacecraft, Space

SpaceShipOne: The First Private Spacecraft

A major turning point for private spaceflight occurred on June 21, 2004, when SpaceShipOne, the first nongovernmental crewed spacecraft, flew 62.5 miles (100 kilometers) above Earth’s surface. In doing so, the vessel crossed a boundary called the Kármán line, the accepted point of entry to space as defined by the International Astronautical Federation. After two more flights in 2004, one on Sept. 29 and another on Oct. 4, the piloted vehicle won the $10 million Ansari X Prize for repeated flights in a privately developed, reusable spacecraft.

Reaching space

SpaceShipOne was a space plane designed and fabricated by Scaled Composites, a company owned by aerospace designer Burt Rutan. The ship’s development was backed by the deep pockets of billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in a joint venture named Tier One, whose objective was to develop technology for low-cost routine access to space.

SpaceShipOne was 28 feet (8.5 meters) long. The cigar-shaped fuselage was about 5 feet (1.5 m) in diameter and could carry a pilot and up to two passengers. The plane had short, wide wings with a 16-foot (5 m) span. Large, vertical tail booms were mounted on the end of each wing. During re-entry, the rear half of the wings folded upward, increasing drag while maintaining stability; then, the wings were moved back into gliding position for landing.

The spacecraft was launched in midair, at an altitude of about 50,000 feet (15,000 m), from the underside of its mothership, White Knight, a turbofan-powered airplane. After SpaceShipOne glided for a few seconds, hybrid rocket motors on it fired for 80 seconds to loft the craft just beyond the atmosphere. SpaceShipOne arced through space for about 3 minutes and then glided back to Earth without making a complete orbit around the planet, otherwise known as a suborbital flight.

SpaceShipOne made 17 flights in all. Spaceflight was achieved on the 15th flight. Test pilot Michael Melvill was at the controls for that momentous trip, and he later became the first licensed commercial astronaut.

After the first flight into space, the ship made two more flights before being retired from active service. The ship set the following records during its last two flights:

  • On Sept. 29, 2004, Melvill flew to an altitude of 64 miles (102 km).
  • On Oct. 4, 2004, pilot Brian Binnie flew to an altitude of 70 miles (112 km).

Pilot Mike Melvill has some fun celebrating his successful private suborbital flight atop SpaceShipOne, as the tow vehicle pulls it to the general viewing area. (Image credit: Mike Massee)

Next generation

In 2009, five years after the success of SpaceShipOne, Rutan rolled out a new version of the spaceliner, called SpaceShipTwo, and its carrier plane, WhiteKnightTwo. This venture was backed by British entrepreneur Richard Branson and his commercial spaceflight company, Virgin Galactic. SpaceShipTwo is manufactured by The Spaceship Company, a fully owned Virgin subsidiary that used to be jointly owned between Virgin and Scaled Composites. (Virgin became the sole owner in 2012.)

SpaceShipTwo is designed to fly two pilots and six passengers on short, suborbital spaceflights that travel more than 62 miles (100 km) above Earth, offer a few minutes of weightlessness and then return to a runway landing. Tickets for SpaceShipTwo flights currently cost $250,000 apiece.

Branson initially promised customers that Virgin Galactic would fly them into space by 2007, but the company has yet to do so and has not offered a new date. During many years of development, the SpaceShipTwo team encountered issues such as development delays, a fatal ground explosion in 2007 and a fatal crash of VSS Enterprise during a test flight in 2014.

However, SpaceShipTwo prototypes have successfully executed a number of powered flights (which means using the engine’s propulsion, as opposed to gliding). On Dec. 13, 2018, the VSS Unity test vehicle reached an altitude of 51.4 miles (82.7 km). That’s a little higher than the boundary of space, as defined by the U.S. Air Force, but still below the Kármán line.

Additional resources:

  • Check out photos of Virgin Galactic’s test flights over the past few years.
  • Read more about the SpaceShipOne exhibit at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
  • Watch this video about the team that created SpaceShipOne, from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

SpaceX: Facts About Elon Musk s Private Spaceflight Company, Space

SpaceX: Facts About Elon Musk’s Private Spaceflight Company

Reference Article: Facts about SpaceX.

SpaceX is a private spaceflight company that puts satellites into orbit and delivers cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). It was the first private company to send a cargo ship to the ISS, doing so in 2012. The company is working on developing powerful rockets and spacecraft capable of carrying people into space. Founder and CEO Elon Musk said in 2019 that he wanted people to start flying aboard his company’s newest, enormous rocket ship in the next year or so.

Who owns SpaceX?

SpaceX was founded by Musk, a South African-born businessman and entrepreneur. At age 30, Musk made his initial fortune by selling his two successful companies: Zip2, which he sold for $307 million in 1999, and PayPal, which eBay purchased for $1.5 billion in 2002, The New York Times reported. He decided his next major venture would be a privately funded space company.

Initially, Musk had the idea of sending a greenhouse, dubbed the Mars Oasis, to the Red Planet. His goal was to drum up public interest in exploration while also providing a science base on Mars. But the cost ended up being too high, and instead, Musk started a spaceflight company called Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, now based in the Los Angeles suburb of Hawthorne, California.

He spent a third of his reported fortune, $100 million, to get SpaceX going. There was skepticism that he would be successful, which persisted into SpaceX’s first years.

After spending 18 months toiling privately on a spacecraft, SpaceX unveiled the craft in 2006 under the name Dragon. Musk reportedly named the spacecraft after “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” a 1960s song from folk group Peter, Paul and Mary. He said he chose the name because critics believed his spaceflight aims were impossible.

SpaceX’s first rocket: Falcon 1

Musk was already an experienced businessman when he started SpaceX, and he strongly believed that more-frequent and more-reliable launches would bring down the cost of exploration. So, he sought out a stable customer that could fund the early development of a rocket: NASA. (Later, he wooed launch clients from various sectors to diversify his customer base.) As such, his goal for SpaceX was to develop the first privately built, liquid-fueled booster to make it into orbit, which he called the Falcon 1.

The company experienced a steep learning curve on the road to orbit. It took four tries to get Falcon 1 flying successfully, with previous attempts derailed by problems such as fuel leaks and a rocket-stage collision. But eventually, Falcon 1 made two successful flights: on Sept. 28, 2008, and July 14, 2009. The 2009 launch also placed the Malaysian RazakSat satellite into orbit.

In 2006, SpaceX received $278 million from NASA under the agency’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) demonstration program, which was created to spur the development of systems that could transport cargo commercially to the ISS. The addition of a few more milestones eventually boosted the total contract value to up to $396 million. SpaceX was selected for the program along with Rocketplane Kistler (RpK), but RpK’s contract was terminated with only partial payment after the company failed to meet required milestones.

Multiple companies participated in the COTS program in its early stages, in funded or unfunded contracts. In 2008, NASA awarded two contracts for commercial-resupply services. SpaceX received a contract for 12 flights (worth $1.6 billion), and Orbital Sciences Corp. (now Orbital ATK) received a contract for eight flights (worth $1.9 billion).

SpaceX’s path to the space station

While the funding showed that NASA had confidence in SpaceX’s ability to get a spacecraft ready to transport cargo supplies, the company still had work to do. To get into space with a heavy cargo load, the Dragon spacecraft would require more rocket power than what Falcon 1 could provide. So, SpaceX developed a next-generation rocket, called Falcon 9, to send Dragon into orbit. Falcon 9 would heft much more cargo: 28,991 lbs. (13,150 kilograms) to low Earth orbit, compared to Falcon 1’s capacity of 1,480 lbs. (670 kg). In addition, SpaceX planned to make the rocket self-landing, and therefore reusable, saving on costs.

SpaceX initially hoped to fly the spacecraft by 2008 or 2009, but the development process took years longer than the company thought it would. The maiden flight of Falcon 9 took place on June 4, 2010, with a simulated Dragon payload. The rocket launched successfully, although the landing attempt failed because the parachute didn’t work. SpaceX followed this up by launching the Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft together on Dec. 8, 2010. Again, the launch was successful, meeting NASA’s COTS requirements, but the landing of the rocket failed.

The next and most crucial milestone was space station delivery. Dragon, riding a Falcon 9 rocket, delivered its first cargo to the space station in May 2012 under a test flight for the COTS program. The launch was delayed for a few days because of an engine problem, but the rocket lifted off safely on the next try.

Spaceflight observers commended SpaceX’s ability to send a cargo spacecraft to the ISS. Private spaceflight hadn’t even been considered when the space station was developed in the 1980s and ’90s.

SpaceX fulfilled the first of its regular commercial flights to the space station in October 2012. That flight achieved most of its objectives, but it experienced a partial rocket failure during launch. The failure ended up stranding a satellite, Orbcomm-OG2, in an abnormally low orbit, which led to the mission’s failure.

Building bigger and better spacecraft: Falcon 9, Dragon and Falcon Heavy

The initial Falcon Heavy flight, on Feb. 6, 2018, met almost all of its major milestones. Falcon Heavy successfully flew to orbit, carrying a Tesla Roadster (an electric car made by Tesla, another company owned by Musk) and a spacesuited mannequin nicknamed Starman onboard. SpaceX ran a livestream of the launch and the Roadster’s first few hours in space, which attracted attention from all over the world.

The two rocket boosters landed successfully near Kennedy Space Center, as expected, but the core stage hit the ocean at 300 mph (480 km/h), which was too fast, and it didn’t survive the impact. Falcon Heavy then performed an engine burn in space that is expected to bring the Roadster at least as far as Mars’ orbit.

April 2019 saw a setback for SpaceX when a test of the crewed Dragon spacecraft, intended to bring NASA astronauts to space, experienced a malfunction while on the ground. This created a smoke plume visible for miles around Cape Canaveral, Florida. The incident set back the company’s timeline for bringing people to the International Space Station.

SpaceX’s plans for the future, Mars and more

SpaceX has customers from the private sector, military and nongovernmental entities, which pay the company to launch cargo into space. Although SpaceX makes its money from launch services, the company is also focused on developing technology for future space exploration.

And Musk’s dreams of flying to Mars are undimmed. In 2011, he told delegates at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) in San Diego that he planned to take people to Mars in 10 to 15 years. Three years later, at the International Space Development Conference, he said the reusable rocket stage would be a step in getting to the Red Planet.

“The reason SpaceX was created was to accelerate development of rocket technology, all for the goal of establishing a self-sustaining, permanent base on Mars,” Musk said at the time. “And I think we’re making some progress in that direction — not as fast as I’d like.”

In 2016, Musk unveiled his technological plan for Martian transport, which is a part of his plan to create a self-sustaining Red Planet colony in the next 50 to 100 years. The Interplanetary Transport System, as the rocket is called, is essentially a larger version of the Falcon 9. The spaceship, however, will be quite a bit larger than the Dragon, as it is slated to carry at least 100 people per flight. (The crewed version of the Dragon for the ISS is expected to carry four people, on average.)

Musk followed up his announcement in 2017 by publishing a paper describing a future Red Planet city of a million people and providing more details about how the ITS would transport cargo and people.

Musk updated his Mars plans in September 2017 in an address in Australia. He didn’t mention the ITS during the talk; instead, he talked about a system called the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR). The spaceship that BFR will carry will be 157.5 feet (48 meters) tall and have 40 cabins for passengers, likely with a capacity of 100 people.

In 2018, Musk announced that Yusaku Maezawa, an artist and billionaire founder of the Japanese e-commerce giant Zozo, and a handful of artists will launch on the BFR on a trip around the moon in the 2020s. SpaceX did not disclose how much Maezawa paid for that trip.

Musk once again unveiled an update to his Mars plans, in September 2019, renaming the first BFR to Starship Mk1 and switching its outer coating from expensive carbon fiber to stainless steel. Photos of the shiny, sci-fi-looking craft being assembled at SpaceX’s South Texas facilities, near the village of Boca Chica, circulated on the internet.

In 2019, Musk and SpaceX ignited controversy in the field of astronomy over the company’s plans to place a constellation of 12,000 small satellites in orbit around the Earth in order to provide reliable internet access to remote places. So far, only 60 of these Starlink satellites have launched but they have already left unsightly trails in astronomers’ telescope observations of the night sky. Many researchers fear that an increased number of satellites will cause problems for vital data-collecting enterprises.

According to a SpaceNews report, SpaceX plans to test out a special coating on the next round of Starlink satellites that could help make them less reflective and, therefore, less obtrusive in the night sky.

Additional resources:

  • You can follow SpaceX on Twitter @SpaceX.
  • Watch videos of SpaceX’s successful and failed launches on the company’s YouTube channel.
  • Check out NASA’s SpaceX blog for the latest news on collaborations between the two entities.

SpaceX Lands 50th Rocket in 5 Years: NPR

SpaceX Successfully Lands 50th Rocket In 5 Years

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying more than 4,300 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the International Space Station launches from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This is the final flight of SpaceX’s first-generation Dragon cargo capsule. SOPA Images/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett hide caption

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying more than 4,300 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the International Space Station launches from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This is the final flight of SpaceX’s first-generation Dragon cargo capsule.

SOPA Images/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett

SpaceX launched another cargo mission to the International Space Station Friday, successfully landing the flight’s rocket booster for the 50th time in the last five years, the Associated Press reported.

The commercial rocket company sent its “Dragon” capsule from Cape Canaveral to the International Space Station for its 20th ISS resupply mission, according to a press release from SpaceX. The spacecraft is carrying more than two tons of equipment and experiments. It’s expected to arrive at the space station Monday.

Falcon 9 launches the final mission of the first version of Dragon

The rocket lifted off to a countdown and cheers from an audience at SpaceX’s headquarters in California, but the largest cheers came for the successful landing of the rocket’s first-stage booster. After falling away from the Dragon capsule, the “Falcon 9” touched back down on the landing pad, amid flashes of bright light and smoke.

“And the Falcon has landed for the 50th time in SpaceX history!” announced lead engineer Jessica Anderson on a livestream from SpaceX HQ.

The night’s windy conditions were a new challenge for the spacecraft. In a tweet, SpaceX co-founder and CEO Elon Musk said the launch was an “intentional envelope expansion.”

Rocket will land in highest winds ever at Cape Canaveral tonight. This is intentional envelope expansion.

Shortly after the booster’s successful landing, Musk tweeted, “Envelope expanded.”

This was not the first launch for either part of the rocket. The Falcon 9 booster, which returned to land to be used again, was last flown in December 2019. The Dragon capsule has flown twice, once in 2017 and once in 2018, according to SpaceX.

This was the last mission for the first version of the Dragon spacecraft, which began space travel in 2012, said Anderson. SpaceX says the next version of the capsule will be capable of flying people in addition to cargo, and will fly with NASA astronauts later this year.

Since its first mission in 2012 – when it became the first private spacecraft to visit the @space_station – Dragon has spent over 520 days attached to the orbiting laboratory, delivered over 95,000 pounds of cargo, and returned over 76,000 pounds back to Earth

The company puts an emphasis on creating rapidly reusable rockets. Its goal is to reduce the cost of space travel, and to eventually make the practice as accessible as modern air travel.

“To date, we’ve had 80 successful launches of Falcon 9, and 30 out of that 80 were on re-flown boosters,” Anderson said.

In the 4,000-plus pounds of cargo headed to the space station are more than 20 experiments sponsored by the U.S. National Laboratory at the International Space Station, according to a press release.

Among them is an Adidas shoe material experiment, which will test the motion of its foam “Boost particles” in a low-gravity environment. The shoe company announced a partnership with the ISS U.S. National Laboratory in November of last year.

Another experiment is Delta Faucet’s test of water droplet formation in micro-gravity conditions for the company’s H2Okinetic shower head, which seeks to conserve water by controlling the size and speed of droplets.

From Procter and Gamble to Budweiser, many well-known companies leverage the unique conditions on the National Lab to improve consumer products people use daily. Now, Delta Faucet Company is going to space to improve your shower on Earth.
Learn more here:

Other experiments include tests to better 3-D printing in space and advance drug development.

Company, SpaceX


SpaceX designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. The company was founded in 2002 to revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.

Quick Facts about SpaceX:

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Making History

SpaceX has gained worldwide attention for a series of historic milestones. It is the only private company capable of returning a spacecraft from low Earth orbit, which it first accomplished in 2010. The company made history again in 2012 when its Dragon spacecraft became the first commercial spacecraft to deliver cargo to and from the International Space Station.

SpaceX successfully achieved the historic first reflight of an orbital class rocket in 2017, and the company now regularly launches flight-proven rockets. In 2018, SpaceX began launching Falcon Heavy, the world’s most powerful operational rocket by a factor of two.


Crew Dragon docked with the International Space Station on March 3 at 3:02 a.m. PST, becoming the first American spacecraft to autonomously dock with the orbiting laboratory.

Falcon Heavy First Flight

Falcon Heavy is the world’s most powerful operational rocket by a factor of two, capable of carrying large payloads to orbit and supporting missions as far as the Moon or Mars.

First Dragon Reflight

This Dragon resupply mission represented the first reflight of a commercial spacecraft to and from the International Space Station.


On March 30, 2017, SpaceX achieved the world’s first reflight of an orbital class rocket. Following delivery of the payload, the Falcon 9 first stage returned to Earth for the second time.


On April 8, 2016, the Falcon 9 rocket launched the Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station, and the first stage returned and landed on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship.


On December 21, 2015, the Falcon 9 rocket delivered 11 communications satellites to orbit, and the first stage returned and landed at Landing Zone 1 -– the first-ever orbital class rocket landing.

Pad Abort Test

Crew Dragon tests launch abort system, which can provide astronauts with escape capability all the way to orbit.

Drone Ship Landings

SpaceX begins series of first stage landing attempts on an autonomous spaceport
drone ship.

Spacex Awarded $2.6b Commercial Crew Contract

NASA awards SpaceX contract to fly American astronauts.

Falcon 9 Reusable Test Vehicle Flies 1000M

Vehicle completes highest leap to date, lands safely.

First Stage Landing

Falcon 9 first stage successfully lands in Atlantic Ocean.

First Flight of Falcon 9 to GTO

Falcon 9 reaches Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit

Grasshopper Completes Half-mile Flight

The Grasshopper program finished with a 744m flight, hover, and landing.

Dragon Visits Station

Dragon becomes the first private spacecraft in history to visit the space station.

Dragon Returns from Earth Orbit

On December 8, 2010, Dragon became the first privately developed spacecraft in history to re-enter from low-Earth orbit.

Falcon 9 First Flight

Met 100% of mission objectives on the first flight!

Falcon 1 Flight 5 Makes History

Falcon 1 Flight 5 makes history, becoming the first privately developed liquid fuel rocket to deliver a commercial satellite to Earth orbit

SpaceX Wins $1.6B CRS Contract

NASA awards SpaceX $1.6B Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract.

Falcon 1 Makes History

Falcon 1 becomes the first privately developed liquid fuel rocket to reach Earth orbit.

Advancing the Future

As one of the world’s fastest growing providers of launch services, SpaceX has secured over 100 missions to its manifest, representing over $12 billion on contract. These include commercial satellite launches as well as US government missions. SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft is flying numerous cargo resupply missions to the space station under a series of Commercial Resupply Services contracts. Dragon was designed from the outset to carry humans to space and will soon fly astronauts under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Building on the achievements of Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, SpaceX is working on a next generation of fully reusable launch vehicles that will be the most powerful ever built, capable of carrying humans to Mars and other destinations in the solar system.

Contact SpaceX

SpaceX is a private company founded in 2002 by Elon Musk. The company has more than 6,000 employees across locations, including its headquarters in Hawthorne, CA; launch facilities at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL; Kennedy Space Center, FL; and Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA; a rocket development facility in McGregor, TX; and offices in Redmond, WA; Irvine, CA; Houston, TX; Chantilly, VA; and Washington, DC. SpaceX has suppliers in all 50 states. See our SpaceX Supplier/Contractor Policy and our policy on trademarks, copyrights and other IP.

There Are 2 Seats Left for This Trip to the International Space Station – The New York Times

There Are 2 Seats Left for This Trip to the International Space Station

Axiom Space is selling tickets on a SpaceX capsule for a $55 million, 10-day stay on the orbiting outpost that would be the first to involve no governmental space agencies.

If you have tens of millions of dollars to spare, you could as soon as next year be one of three passengers setting off aboard a spaceship to the International Space Station for a 10-day stay.

On Thursday, Axiom Space, a company run by a former manager of NASA’s part of the space station, announced that it had signed a contract with SpaceX, Elon Musk’s rocket company, for what might be the first fully private human spaceflight to orbit.

“I think you’ll see a lot more energy in the market as people come to realize it’s real, and it’s happening,” said Michael T. Suffredini, the president and chief executive of Axiom.

The spaceflight, Axiom officials said, could take off as soon as the second half of 2021.

SpaceX developed its Crew Dragon capsule for taking NASA astronauts to and from the space station. But just as the company’s development of its Falcon 9 rocket for taking cargo to the space station led to a vibrant business of launching commercial satellites, SpaceX is also looking to expand Crew Dragon passengers beyond just NASA astronauts.

After a successful test in January of an in-flight escape system, the first Crew Dragon flight carrying two NASA astronauts could launch within a couple of months.

For now, NASA wants a new Crew Dragon for each trip carrying its astronauts, even though the capsules are designed for multiple trips to space. That means a Crew Dragon flown for NASA could be used again for a flight of tourists.

Last month, Space Adventures, another company, announced an agreement with SpaceX to fly a Crew Dragon with up to four tourists for a free-flying trip that would last up to five days. That trip would not dock at the space station. Eric C. Anderson, chairman of Space Adventures, said in an interview the Crew Dragon would fly autonomously but that the passengers would receive training to be ready for various emergencies.

The Space Adventures trip could happen in late 2021 or early 2022. “It’ll be probably right around the 60th anniversary of the John Glenn’s flight,” Mr. Anderson said, referring to the first American to circle Earth, on Feb. 20, 1962.

The capsule and its passengers would take an elliptical path, reaching an altitude two to three times as high as the space station’s orbit.

Mr. Anderson did not provide an exact price, but said the cost would be $10 million to $20 million less than the $50 million to $60 million usually mentioned for orbital trips.

On the planned Axiom flight, one seat would be occupied by a company-trained astronaut who would serve as the flight commander. The other three seats will be for customers who are to spend 10 days in orbit floating inside the space station. The Axiom astronaut would also oversee the space tourists while they were on the station, making sure that they did not interfere with the six crew members.

Mr. Suffredini said that the space station, with as much interior room as a Boeing 747 jetliner, should have enough room for everyone.

He declined to talk about the cost, but in the past, Axiom has confirmed that a seat on the trip will cost $55 million, and it has already signed up one person.

From 2001 to 2009, seven nonprofessional astronauts bought trips to the space station aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket. In each of these trips, arranged by Space Adventures, the other two astronauts on the spacecraft were working professionals headed for a tour of duty in orbit. Last year, the United Arab Emirates bought a Soyuz seat to jump-start its space program by sending an astronaut, Hazzaa al-Mansoori, to the space station.

The Axiom mission could be the first orbital flight with people aboard without the direct involvement of a governmental space agency.

NASA has in recent years become more receptive to allowing companies to find new ways to make money on the space station. Last June, NASA set up a price list for various commercial activities, including charging companies like Axiom $35,000 a night for each tourist staying at the station for space to sleep and the use of its amenities like air, water, the internet and the toilet. The largest chunk of the $55 million ticket price is for the rocket ride, which Axiom will pay to SpaceX, not NASA.

“NASA has been very forward leaning, and we’re taking advantage of that,” Mr. Suffredini said.

From 2005 to 2015, Mr. Suffredini worked at NASA as program manager for the International Space Station. A year after retiring, he was one of the founders of Axiom, which claims it can build and operate a private facility at a fraction of the $4 billion that NASA spends annually on the International Space Station.

But the first step in that plan is going to the I.S.S.

Axiom has been discussing with NASA the possibility of tourist flights for several years. Last month, NASA also selected Axiom to develop a module that would be attached to the I.S.S. in 2024 and used for commercial business activities. When the space station is eventually retired, the Axiom module would be detached and used as a building block for Axiom’s private space station.

If a trip to orbit seems like too much, two other companies, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, may be on track to carry their first customers on short-hop space tourism flights to the edge of space. Virgin earlier priced seats on its space plane at $250,000, but may now charge more. Blue Origin has not announced the cost of a trip aboard its reusable rocket and capsule, New Shepard.

“I think it’s an important inflection point,” said Mr. Anderson of Space Adventures. Space travel, even if affordable for only a few, is still marker of hope and what humans can and do accomplish, he said.

“I’m hopeful it will be something cool and positive in the world,” he said.

Axiom strikes deal with SpaceX to ferry private astronauts to space station – Spaceflight Now

Axiom strikes deal with SpaceX to ferry private astronauts to space station

Axiom Space, a Houston-based company with plans to develop a commercial outpost in space, announced Thursday it has signed a contract with SpaceX to ferry a professional astronaut and three paying passengers to the International Space Station as soon as next year on the first fully private human spaceflight mission to Earth orbit.

The private crew members will spend at least eight days on the orbiting research platform, allowing them to enjoy “microgravity and views of Earth that can only be fully appreciated in the large, venerable station,” Axiom said in a statement.

Axiom said Thursday it has signed a contract with SpaceX to transport a commander “professionally trained” by Axiom and three private astronauts to the space station on a Crew Dragon spacecraft. The mission could take off as soon as the second half of 2021, Axiom said.

“This history-making flight will represent a watershed moment in the march toward universal and routine access to space,” said Michael Suffredini, Axiom’s CEO, in a statement. “This will be just the first of many missions to ISS to be completely crewed and managed by Axiom Space — a first for a commercial entity. Procuring the transportation marks significant progress toward that goal, and we’re glad to be working with SpaceX in this effort.”

Axiom says it plans to offer additional flights to the International Space Station for professional and private astronauts through a Space Act Agreement with NASA, which is looking to Axiom and other companies to develop a commercial market for human spaceflight in low Earth orbit after the space station’s retirement.

The private astronaut flight opportunities arranged by Axiom could launch as often as two times per year, the company said.

Self-funded space fliers to date have flown to the space station on Russian Soyuz spacecraft, joining crews comprised of government cosmonauts and astronauts.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Boeing’s Starliner capsule are only U.S. vehicles expected to be available to transport commercial crews to the International Space Station in the coming years. Both human-rated ships were developed in partnership with NASA, which has contracts with SpaceX and Boeing valued at a combined $6.8 billion to build the Crew Dragon and Starliner capsules and fly government astronauts to the space station.

The Crew Dragon and Starliner spaceships will end NASA’s sole reliance on Russian Soyuz crew ferry ships for astronaut transportation to and from the space station. The Soyuz has been the only spacecraft able to carry crews to and from the station since the retirement of NASA’s space shuttles in 2011.

SpaceX is gearing up for the first Crew Dragon test flight with astronauts on-board later this year. The mission, named Demo-2, could take off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida as soon as May, following an unpiloted Crew Dragon test flight to the station in March 2019.

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will fly on the Crew Dragon to the space station. If the test flight goes well, the Crew Dragon will be certified for regular crew rotation flights to the orbiting complex lasting up to seven months.

The Crew Dragon is designed to accommodate up to four people on launch and landing. On crewed missions, the capsule will take off on top of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, then splash down in the Atlantic Ocean east of Florida.

“Since 2012, SpaceX has been delivering cargo to the International Space Station in partnership with NASA and later this year, we will fly NASA astronauts for the first time,” said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and chief operating. “Now, thanks to Axiom and their support from NASA, privately crewed missions will have unprecedented access to the space station, furthering the commercialization of space and helping usher in a new era of human exploration.”

Although NASA supported development of the Crew Dragon, the SpaceX capsule — like Boeing’s Starliner — is available for other customers.

Last month, the space tourism company Space Adventures announced an agreement with SpaceX to fly paying passengers on a Crew Dragon spacecraft without going to the space station. Instead, the Crew Dragon will fly on its own in Earth orbit, reaching altitudes hundreds of miles above the space station to provide passengers a more expansive view of Earth.

Passengers for the Space Adventures mission or the Axiom-managed flight have not been announced, but possible clients could include wealthy adventurers, filmmakers, researchers and astronauts from nations with nascent space programs.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft closes in for docking in March 2019 at the International Space Station. Credit: NASA TV/Spaceflight Now

Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft, meanwhile, failed to dock with the space station on its first unpiloted demonstration flight in December. Boeing and NASA engineers are probing the spacecraft’s software after the capsule suffered multiple faults during its mission, which ended with an early landing after missing its rendezvous with the space station.

Officials have not said when the Starliner spacecraft could be cleared for a test flight with astronauts, or whether NASA will require Boeing to launch another unpiloted demonstration mission before proceeding with a crewed mission.

Led by Suffredini, a former ISS program manager at NASA, Axiom is developing a commercial habitat to be installed on the International Space Station as soon as late 2024. In January, NASA selected Axiom to provide a module for an open port on the station in a step toward development of a commercial replacement of the International Space Station.

NASA announced last year it would solicit proposals from companies to provide a module to connect with the open port on the ISS. At the same time, the agency announced a pricing structure for private astronauts who launch on Boeing or SpaceX commercial crew spacecraft to live and work aboard the research outpost.

NASA is negotiating with Axiom on a firm-fixed price contract to provide at least one commercial module on the International Space Station. But Axiom has more ambitious goals.

Axiom says it plans to build and launch several modules to form the “Axiom Segment” of the International Space Station.

The privately-funded elements planned by Axiom include a node module, an orbital research and manufacturing facility, a crew habitat, and a “large-windowed Earth observatory” that is similar in appearance to the International Space Station’s cupola module. Axiom said the new commercial segment will add more research and habitation facilities to the ISS, and provide “novel avenues of research in areas such as isolation studies and Earth observation.”

Research currently conducted on the ISS could be transferred to the new commercial facility gradually to prevent interruptions with the ISS is retired, according to Axiom.

In parallel with the development of a commercial space station, Axiom says it will launch a series of “precursor missions” to the ISS with private astronauts, the first of which was announced Thursday.

Axiom says it oversee training, mission planning, hardware development, life support, medical support, crew provisions, hardware and safety certifications, on-orbit operations and overall mission management for the private astronaut flights.

While its initial partnership with NASA is focused on connecting a module and flying private astronauts to the International Space Station, Axiom plans to detach its commercial modules when the ISS reaches its retirement date, forming a standalone, free-flying commercial orbital station. Before the International Space Station is decommissioned and the Axiom Segment is detached, Axiom aims to launch a solar power platform to provide the commercial modules the electricity and cooling previously provided by the ISS.

The industry team assembled by Axiom to work on elements of the commercial space station includes Boeing and Thales Alenia Space of Italy. Boeing and Thales built most of the pressurized modules on the U.S. segment the International Space Station.

Other partners identified by Axiom include Intuitive Machines and Maxar Technologies.

The U.S. government is in the process of approving an extension to NASA’s support for the International Space Station to 2028 or 2030. By that time, NASA managers hope commercial operators like Axiom could take over management of a replacement space station in low Earth orbit.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

This was the decade the commercial spaceflight industry leapt forward – The Verge

This was the decade the commercial spaceflight industry leapt forward

Led by SpaceX, there’s been a paradigm shift in the business of space

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Two years into the decade, on May 25th, 2012, a small teardrop-shaped capsule arrived at the International Space Station, packed with cargo and supplies for the crew living on board. Its resupply mission at the ISS wasn’t remarkable, but the vehicle itself was unique: it was a Dragon cargo capsule, owned and operated by a private company called SpaceX.

Before 2012, only vehicles operated by governments had ever visited the ISS. The Dragon was the first commercial vehicle to dock with the station. The milestone was a crowning achievement for the commercial industry, which has permanently altered the spaceflight sector over the last 10 years.

This decade, the space industry has seen a shift in the way it does business, with newer players looking to capitalize on different markets and more ambitious projects. The result has been an explosion of growth within the commercial sector. It’s allowing for easier access to space than ever before, with both positive and negative results. Such growth is providing the commercial space industry with lots of momentum coming into the 2020s, but it’s unclear if this pace is something that can be kept up.

A new paradigm

Commercial companies have been involved in spaceflight since the dawn of space travel. Private companies built the Saturn V rocket for NASA, which took the first humans to the surface of the Moon. But for much of the 20th century, the companies that built those rockets and spacecraft weren’t purely focused on space travel. Instead, behemoth contractors specialized in space technologies, while also focusing on other areas of tech such as aviation and defense. They pursued purely government contracts — either from NASA or the Department of Defense — and most often the government told them exactly what to do.

“Under the old model, the government would hire a Lockheed or a Boeing or somebody to build one of these rockets,” Brian Weeden, director of program planning for the Secure World Foundation, tells The Verge. “Almost all the money would come from the government, and the government would have almost complete control over what was built.” It’s the way the Space Shuttle was built; the way the International Space Station was built; the way the future James Webb Space Telescope is being built. All of these things are owned and operated by NASA, though they’ve all been built by contractors.

NASA’s Space Shuttle, built by contractors, flew its final flight in 2011 Image: NASA

For years, companies with the most spaceflight experience pursued these juicy government gigs, forsaking the private market. The US’s biggest launch provider since 2006, the United Launch Alliance, was mostly established to loft national security satellites for the DoD. “Because our companies became only interested in and focusing on the government customer, by 2010, at the beginning of the decade, we had no market share at all in the commercial space launch industry,” Greg Autry, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California specializing in new space, tells The Verge. “If a private company from Thailand wanted to launch a TV satellite or an Israeli company wanted to launch a communications satellite, an American launch vehicle was not even a consideration.”

But in the 2000s, a new player emerged in the commercial space arena. Space Exploration Technologies Corp., helmed by billionaire Elon Musk, took a different route than the contractors. The company was purely focused on space travel, with a very ambitious long-term goal: start a settlement on Mars someday. First, it had to build actual rockets, and the company had to be profitable doing so. Armed with private investment from Musk and early adopters, SpaceX started developing rockets on its own. And rather than focus entirely on government contracts, SpaceX pursued any customer it could, from NASA and the DoD, to commercial and international satellite operators. If you had something that needed to get to space, SpaceX wanted to fly it for you.

As SpaceX strived to make a name for itself, NASA started to experiment with a new way of doing business. Known as fixed-price contracting, the idea worked liked this: The space agency would put out a call for a service (for instance, a way to transport cargo to the ISS). Companies would then pitch their own ideas and vehicles to make that happen. If NASA liked the pitch, it would hand over a lump sum of money as investment, and the company would go into development. Once the vehicle was complete, NASA would pay for the use of it. It was meant to be a win-win. NASA would pay less money up front for a service, and private companies would own and operate their final creations.

This model was perfect for a company like SpaceX. It could use the investment from the government to supplement the development of its rockets, and then ultimately use the rockets to make money once development was complete. “That caused them to think creatively,” Lori Garver, the former deputy administrator of NASA under the Obama administration, tells The Verge. “There was a guaranteed market if you could get there.” That’s exactly what happened after SpaceX was tasked by NASA to start servicing the International Space Station. Once the company had developed its Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX tried to put as many satellites on top of the vehicle as possible.

SpaceX’s Dragon, captured by the robotic arm on the International Space Station, in May 2012 Image: NASA

To capture more customers, SpaceX strove to bring down launch costs through new methods of manufacturing and a vertically integrated business. Famously, SpaceX relentlessly pursued making its rockets reusable, by landing them after each flight — a feat that’s meant to save the company on manufacturing costs. SpaceX has reaped the benefits of its affordable launches, too. Despite a few notable rocket failures, the company is still the most prolific launch provider in the US at the moment, and holds contracts with numerous customers from around the world. “They want to pursue private markets,” Jim Muncy, founder of PoliSpace, a space policy consulting agency, tells The Verge. “And they want to stimulate private markets.”

For better or for worse

Capitalism finally infiltrated spaceflight in the 2010s, and that meant competition was in full swing. Other launch providers looked at ways to also bring down costs over the last decade, with some pursuing reusability as well. New players are coming onto the scene: Blue Origin, Virgin Orbit, Rocket Lab, and more. As launch costs have come down, space has become more accessible than ever.

Over the last decade, Moore’s law has also finally taken hold of spaceflight, with satellites and vehicles being built smaller. These cereal box-sized satellites are easier and cheaper to make than their bus-sized predecessors, and they’re much cheaper to launch, requiring less overall room on a rocket. As a result, companies focused solely on building small satellites have seen enormous success. Research organizations and universities looking to put something into orbit have an easier time of making that happen. This trend, combined with more launch vehicles, has resulted in an explosion of new vehicles and satellite constellations from commercial companies.

With all this progress does come unintended consequences. The rise of SpaceX has also seen the rise of the SpaceX fans. Unlike other CEOs, Musk’s fans revere him as an almost godlike figure, a savior for humanity who will lead us to a utopia on Mars. Criticizing him and SpaceX for any reason comes with major risk, as you will likely be perceived as tearing down progress. That’s unfortunate, because healthy skepticism is warranted these days, as SpaceX’s claims and ambitions have grown loftier than ever. The latest claim is that the company will be landing a giant new vehicle on the Moon by 2022 — but that vehicle hasn’t yet been built, and it certainly hasn’t flown. “Every pronouncement that they make, no matter how wacky it is, is reported without critique, largely,” Linda Billings, a current consultant to NASA’s astrobiology and planetary defense programs, tells The Verge.

Some of the more formidable projects these companies want to undertake could also be detrimental down the road. Notably, SpaceX, OneWeb, and other companies have all been eyeing a new spaceflight market: filling low Earth orbit with tens of thousands of satellites, in order to beam internet coverage to the surface below. In an effort to bolster the progress of the commercial space industry, the government has taken a light touch approach to regulating these more entrepreneurial companies. The Federal Communications Commission, which provides licenses for launches, has been very lax in its approvals, giving SpaceX and OneWeb the go-ahead for their massive satellite initiatives. Now, there’s not much stopping them from increasing the amount of satellites in orbit by several orders of magnitude.

SpaceX’s first batch of Starlink satellites, just before being deployed Image: SpaceX

It’s unclear what that will do to the space around Earth. Already, there’s concern that so many satellites will transform the night sky, making it difficult for astronomers to make detailed observations of the Universe when so many vehicles are whizzing overhead. But even more concerning is how all these satellites will add to an already congested region of space. Injecting thousands of satellites into orbit over the next few years may drastically increase the chances of things colliding. The end result could be that low Earth orbit becomes too crowded, and essentially unusable.

While this decade saw ambitions grow along with enormous progress within the commercial space sector, many things that had been promised didn’t pan out. Most notably, human spaceflight on commercial vehicles has yet to fully mature. Space tourism ventures Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic argued that customers could be flying this decade. That dream will have to wait until the 2020s. “Branson was saying we were going to start flying tourists in 2008,” says Billings. “And where are we now?” Meanwhile, SpaceX and Boeing have been developing new vehicles to carry humans to the International Space Station, under the new contracting model that NASA used to resupply the ISS. While the process may be less expensive than other contracting methods, the development has still been fraught with delays and setbacks — whether that be from stringent oversight, low budgets, or just plain engineering problems. The first crews were supposed to fly in 2017. Now they will likely fly for the first time in 2020. Creating new passenger spacecraft that keep people alive and safe still takes a lot of time, no matter what contracting method you use.

What’s next?

As the 2020s get underway, the commercial space industry will have a lot to prove, especially since many have their sights set much higher than low Earth orbit. Numerous private companies are aiming to send robotic landers to the Moon in the next few years, while SpaceX, Blue Origin, and more all vow to send people to the Moon someday. It’s unclear how long it will take them to get there, if they can make it at all. The first private company, an Israeli nonprofit, attempted to land on the Moon this year and didn’t stick the landing.

Ultimately, it’s uncertain if there is a solid market for more ambitious forms of space travel. Even the satellite market has softened in recent years, which may explain why SpaceX has tried to turn itself into a consumer-facing business through its satellite constellation. It needs money to stay afloat. The scary thought is: what if there’s not much more money to squeeze out of space? Experts have long been forecasting days where private space stations will dominate low Earth orbit, frequented by tourists on vacation or their honeymoons. Eventually, private companies hope to scour the Moon’s surface for water ice, which they could turn into drinking water or rocket fuel for lunar bases. It all sounds like a great future. “Commercializing the lunar stuff, honestly, is not going to happen as fast, because there isn’t a market for it anytime soon,” says Garver. “But anyone could have told you there was a market for launch outside of NASA.”

The next decade will show us if the commercial spaceflight industry can match the progress it’s seen these last 10 years. Maybe these companies will finally take us beyond Earth orbit, with people along for the ride. Or it may reveal that the market for space is staying close to home for the foreseeable future.

Elon Musk sending 3 – space tourists – to International Space Station

Elon Musk sending 3 ‘space tourists’ to International Space Station

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Three cash-flushed tourists will travel to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX rocket next year.

The ten-day trip will see private citizens ferried to the orbiting science lab to spend time with astronauts and experience life in Zero-G.

Announced on Thursday by Axiom, a company that helps to organize private space trips, tickets for the flight will cost roughly £40million each.

One seat has already been booked by an anonymous deep-pocketed space fan, reports the New York Times.

Seven tourists have visited the station before (one even went twice) but the SpaceX mission will mark the first fully private manned trip to the craft.

“This history-making flight will represent a watershed moment in the march toward universal and routine access to space,” Axiom boss Michael Suffredini said.

“This will be just the first of many missions to ISS to be completely crewed and managed by Axiom Space – a first for a commercial entity.”

The flight will launch in late 2021 using a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket topped with one of the firm’s Crew Dragon capsules.

SpaceX, run by billionaire Elon Musk, has spent years testing the capsule and is due to fire one to the International Space Station (ISS) with Nasa astronauts on board for the first time later this year.

In total, passengers on its tourist flight will spend eight days on the lab and two days traveling to and from it.

Axios said crew will “live aboard the ISS and experience … microgravity and views of Earth that can only be fully appreciated in the large, venerable station.”

The mission was made possible after Nasa announced last year that it would start opening up the ISS to more private flights.

Previous tourist stays at the station have been orchestrated by Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, drawing fiery criticism from Nasa.

The last lifted off in 2009, shortly before the ISS expanded its capacity from three to six and it became clear that Nasa and other space agencies needed the extra seat on Russia’s Soyuz rockets for their own crew.

Each ticket on next year’s flight will cost a reported $55million (£42million), a chunk of which will go towards Nasa’s future space missions.

The space agency needs extra cash to help fund its dream of putting a man and woman on the Moon by 2024.

Keeping astronauts onboard the ISS is a pricey business.

For instance, the regenerative life support and toilet costs $11,250 (£8,800) per astronaut each day.

And general supplies – like food and air – cost $22,500 (£17,500) per astronaut each day.

Nasa will get around $35,000 (£27,000) per night that a private citizen spends onboard the ISS.

A large bank balance won’t be enough either: You’ll have to pass Nasa’s rigorous health checks and training procedures.

As part of its “commercialization” of the ISS, Nasa will be making one space station port and utilities available to private companies.

And it hopes that in the long-term, there will be lots of private space stations floating just above Earth.

“In the long-term, Nasa’s goal is to become one of many customers purchasing services from independent, commercial and free-flying habitable destinations in low-Earth orbit,” Nasa explained last year.

“A robust low-Earth orbit economy will need multiple commercial destinations and NASA is partnering with industry to pursue dual paths to that objective that either go through the space station or directly to a free-flying destination.”

Axios said it planned to launch up to two professional and private astronaut flights per year to the ISS in future.