Commercial Space Gaining in Obama White House

Artists conception of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft in orbit
Artists conception of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft in orbit

New Course for Space Exploration Promotes Private Firms
Wall Street Journal

The Obama administration appears set to chart a new course for U.S. space exploration by promoting the use of private companies to ferry astronauts into orbit, according to people familiar with the matter.

The controversial plan would mark a trailblazing departure for the nation’s space program by allowing a group of closely held start-up companies, for the first time, to compete for a central role in an arena previously dominated by much larger, publicly traded contractors with long track records working for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The initiative is part of a broader realignment of goals for an agency suffering from low morale and chronic budget shortfalls that also has been whipsawed by changing priorities in successive administrations.

But even as it moves to outsource major components of the space program to private industry, these people said, the White House is planning to hedge its bets in various other ways. One likely option is to ramp up funding for certain in-house rocket programs that over the next few years could serve as a technical safety net, and eventually provide the families of more-powerful boosters required for longer-term exploration of the solar system.

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