SpaceX is private company and they are planning to successfully use the business opportunity in the space tourism. We will see many such experiments in the future and some day there will be a space tourism program for the people who can afford. Is this what spaceX planning to do?
The kicker is going to be what DoD will do when commercial spaceplanes get too close to their satellite assets. It is also likely that the space-junk-in-orbit problem is going to get a lot worse. Don't get me wrong, I think this is the path that we need to take to advance as a species, but I think the reality is going to be a lot messier than Star Trek.
It has been a good week for unmanned reusable spacecraft with news that the "Air Force Spacecraft Returns From 7-Month Mission" (Dec. 3, 2010, 8:50 am)
"The unmanned X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle has successfully landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, marking the end of the miniature space shuttle's secret seven month mission for the US Air Force, various media outlets reported on Friday... The spacecraft is similar in design to NASA's venerable space shuttle, though the 29-foot craft is just one-fourth of the shuttle's size. It also has a smaller wingspan (15-feet versus 78-feet) and can stay in orbit for several months at a time, while the space shuttle can only remain in space for approximately two weeks."
I am happy to hear that the commercial space efforts are paying off. I wonder if this could become a regular event in the near future or just an occasional news splash to spur further investment in private space efforts? Do we have any of the financial information on this launch? What did the ship cost? What will the cost to refurbish for another flight? What kind of payload can it deliver to orbit? Just wondering about all those neat details.. anyone know? How do the numbers compare to NASA's?
It was awe-inspiring when there was a Space Race to beat each other to the Moon. Here's to commercial rockets being up to the task to continue opening new space frontiers as NASA did with government (our taxes) money getting the U.S. to the Earth's satellite first.