to return to flight,” Frank DeMauro of Orbital ATK said at the International Symposium for
Personal and Commercial Spaceflight in October 2015. Another Antares rocket project is set for
completion in the second or third quarter of 2016.
The relatively rapid rocket iterations show the benefits of the United States switching from a
government space shuttle program to one that contracts with private companies to take supplies
to the International Space Station, says Justin Kugler, CAPM, commercial innovation manager,
Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, Houston, Texas, USA.
“Before, when [the National Aeronautics and Space Administration] controlled everything
[and] something went horribly wrong, the entire system shut down for years at a time,” he says.
Despite setbacks in the incipient commercial space industry, the support of external stakeholders appears resilient. When Virgin Galactic, which plans to offer commercial passenger flights into
space, announced that pilot error caused a fatal crash of its spaceship in October 2014, the company
said fewer than 30 of its 700 customers asked for refunds. Those customers have each shelled out as
much as US$250,000 for a chance to fly in the spacecraft, though Virgin has not specified when trips
will begin. While the crash isn’t deterring would-be Virgin passengers, it will likely increase safety
standards—something that might increase project costs for space tourism.
“You always want to make your systems less expensive, but that is going to be a challenge in
commercial space,” Marco Caceres, an analyst with
aerospace consultancy Teal Group, told the Los
Angeles Times. “Making them safe but not prohibitively expensive is a trade-off.”
As the private-sector space race continues, a
cheaper, lower-tech option for space tourism is
gaining traction: suborbital balloons. In October,
World View Enterprises successfully completed its
horribly wrong, the
entire system shut
down for years at a
—Justin Kugler, CAPM, Center for the
Advancement of Science in Space,
Houston, Texas, USA
Blue Origin’s New Shepard
space vehicle makes its first
developmental test flight.
An Orbital ATK cargo spacecraft
ready for launch at Cape Canaveral
Air Force Station in Florida, USA