With NASA’s Space Shuttle program coming to an end, the private space transportation industry is heating up. Many players are making plans to provide out-of-this-world service in the not too distant future. As I have discussed in previous blogs, a growing number of companies (such as SpaceX and Scaled Composites) and private incentive programs (such as Ansari X Prize) have been encouraging the privately funded space race.
It is no secret that Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has teamed with Scaled Composites (winner of the first Ansari X Prize) to enter the commercial space flight market. It was just revealed today, however, that The Boeing Company and Space Adventures Ltd. have established a memorandum of agreement regarding the marketing of anticipated transportation services to destinations in low Earth orbit (LEO) on Boeing commercial crew spacecraft. Under this agreement, Space Adventures will market passenger seats on commercial flights aboard the Boeing Crew Space Transport-100 (CST-100) spacecraft to LEO. The two companies have not yet established pricing; but, with all this healthy competition, I can envision a trip to space within my lifetime.
“By combining our talents, we can better offer safe, affordable transportation to commercial spaceflight customers,” says Brewster Shaw, vice president and general manager of Boeing’s Space Exploration division. “To date, all commercial flights for private spaceflight participants to the ISS have been contracted by Space Adventures. If NASA and the international partners continue to accommodate commercial spaceflight participants on ISS, this agreement will be in concert with the NASA administrator’s stated intent to promote space commerce in low Earth orbit.”