Who Will Become the World’s First Commercial Spaceline?

New Shepard booster executes a controlled vertical landing at 4.2 mph. (Credit: Blue Origin)
New Shepard booster executes a controlled vertical landing at 4.2 mph. (Credit: Blue Origin)

With Blue Origin’s successful re-flight of its reusable New Shepard booster and capsule on Friday, the company jumped ahead in the competition to fly people into space on a commercial basis.

None of New Shepard’s flights has carried a crew. Blue Origin has not announced ticket prices or a schedule for flying people aboard the capsule, which lands under parachute. You can sign up on its website to receive “early access to pricing information and tickets when we open reservations.”

In Mojave, Calif., two rivals are still struggling to their space tourism businesses going. Virgin Galactic, which bills itself as  “the world’s first commercial spaceline,” has yet to fly its SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle above 71,000 feet. The company was launched in 2004 with the goal of beginning commercial service in 2007.

Virgin Galactic is set to roll out its second spacecraft on Feb. 19, with flight tests to follow. The first SpaceShipTwo was destroyed during a flight test in October 2014.

In an interview earlier this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Virgin Galactic Founder Richard Branson did not give an estimate for when the new spacecraft would begin flying. Tickets aboard SpaceShipTwo cost $250,000.

XCOR is still building its first Lynx vehicle, which it expects to fly later this year in Mojave. The Lynx Mark I will be a high-altitude test vehicle that will not be able to reach the boundary of space at 100 km (62 miles). An upgraded Lynx Mark II will be designed to fly to space.

The company, which is running years behind schedule on its first vehicle, is not providing a schedule for flight tests or commercial service will begin. Tickets cost $150,000.

Space Adventures is the only company to fly tourists to space on a commercial basis. The company has booked seven clients on eight trips to the International Space Station aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft since 2001.

However, those flights are limited to when the Russians have spare seats aboard the Soyuz. The last one took place in 2009. British soprano Sarah Brightman pulled out of a flight scheduled for last year. She was replaced by a cosmonaut from Kazakhstan.

Space Adventures does have a plan to fly two tourists around the moon in a modified Soyuz spacecraft. The company said it has signed up two customers willing to pay $150 million apiece for the flight.

Space Adventures had hoped to fly the mission before the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 1 fire in January 2017.  That goal appears unlikely because the tourist flight would be preceded by a mission around the moon flown by professional cosmonauts to test the upgraded Soyuz. No such mission appears to be on the schedule for the year ahead.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    Subjugation of the masses for the benefit of an elitist minority is the central tenet of right wing political ideologies. Far left politics is all about removing the rights of individuals in an attempt to equate human civilisation with an ant colony. Both extremes rely on authoritarianism to strip people of dignity, hope, freedom and opportunity.

    Centrist liberalism is about raising the lowest standard of living out of poverty and to a level that treats all people with respect and dignity, whilst at the same time giving those with the skills and/or motivation to achieve an even more comfortable life style via a system of regulated capitalism, that is, striving for a true, fair and just meritocracy.

    So are you a fascist, a communist or a liberal?.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    “…as we can observe in just those days in Europe in act of suicide”
    I don’t understand what this refers to; please explain.

  • Tom Billings

    Private transport to Bigelow stations will be done by SpaceX without NASA’s policies bending the knee to Senator Shelby and raising costs thereby. Those cheaper flights will initially be to wet-leased stations, that Bigelow people run, while countries A,B,C,D,E,F send up researchers to them for the work they want accomplished. What will be interesting will be when some wet-lease participant uses their time aboard a Bigelow station to build their own station right next to it, lighter, bigger, and without the design compromises needed to launch it on anyone’s rocket. SpiderFab and 3d-printing and similar tech would feature big in that.

    Once that is done, by anyone from Italy to Israel to India to Iceland, and they use that tech to build more stations in orbit for others, *then* we will see cheaper destinations that will multiply and become truly private. At some point, State Dept. and Commerce Dept. will have to acknowledge they can no longer control access to Space through ITAR, and the door will swing wide open. At that time we can hope that someone from outside the Cost+ Contractor Club like BO has become a competitor to SpaceX, and prices will begin their true tumble.

  • Tom Billings

    Yes, even with only Boeing and Airbus in the jet airliner market the competition can get hot and heavy between airlines, as long as governments don’t jack up prices (looking at DHS).

  • Tom Billings

    Its more of a focus of vision thing than a political philosophy with these guys. They tend to see the benefits of their own decisions from the top of a hierarchy, and assume that decisions from the top of a government hierrchy can be just as beneficial. Yes, they can fool themselves that other hierarchs are as benevolent as they wanna be, but it just isn’t so.

    Humans tend to be realists about whatever they are focused on, and fantasists more and more the farther the particulars of a situation get get from their focus of attention. Having a billion dollars doesn’t seem to change that so much.

  • Tom Billings

    It’s not a Left or Right thing, but the natural testosterone-rewarded tendency to want to be the Alpha in any group. Certainly Musk and Bezos have that, and when they bump, it shows. Hierarchies are the organization form people use to control resources, while networks are the forms that generate wealth. Those wanting to get the testosterone high of being Alphas tend to set up herarchies, even when they know that networks *must* be accommodated if they are to get anything done.

    Those who forget the need for networks end up as totalitarians, which we see when they suppress networks they cannot easily control just because they get *NO* back too often to their political/personal demands for moving resources around. An example is Stalin’s replies to engineers who crossed his political program’s needs, explaining that physics didn’t work that way, …”Wreckers!, …Defeatists!”

    Those who keep that impulse under control, and subordinate it into communication that anticipates the *NO* that physics sends back up the line keep building profitable companies that grow. Those that don’t, …don’t for very long.

  • Vladislaw

    At 200 million, if it used 10 times and add 15% for servicing and you are around 23 million per flight or 3.3 million per person per flight. The first stage if thrown away after the flight would be around 8.5 million per person and If the 1st stage becomes reusable that could drop a few more million. So about 12 million or less per seat add in the profit margins..

  • Tom Billings

    He’s referring to the willingness of politicians, their police hirelings, and the press to overlook both mass rapes in large German cities, and the 10+ years long scandals, like forcing 1400+ young girls into prostitution, as happened in Rotherham in England. These were all over-looked out of fear of criticizing the Muslim families and mobs that did these horrors, while the police watched, or turned away so they could claim they did not know. It has happened because of the multiculturalist political policy dominating EU countries.

    These policies basically will not allow criticism by anyone actively supporting industrial society’s needed freedoms of action against the attitudes brought in by people from agrarian cultures. Those groups, in turn, are given the assumption that they are “among the oppressed”, and so can do no wrong.

  • Tom Billings

    None of the above, because I do not believe that government *can* lift anyone to an attitude that supports the freedoms of action needed to build and maintain the multi-level highly productive networks that make up industrial society around the world. That requires a Civil Society with a focus on individual freedoms of action, and responsibility for the results of those actions.

  • windbourne

    Odd that you say that.

  • windbourne

    Zero chance on some of that. Basically, it makes little sense for NASA to focus all their efforts on the moon. However, there is little doubt that NASA will not only go there, but help private space get there. And that likely means that NASA will be more than willing to spend 1-3b / year to be there. And esa, along with others, will likely take advantage of private space to be there getting set up while designing and building equipment.

  • Douglas Messier

    Dragon is capable of flying seven astronauts. Regular ISS missions will only fly four at a time.

  • Malatrope

    Bezos should get together with Branson and make an adapter to mount SS3 on top of his launcher. Take out the cantankerous engine and go back to the reliable one, add a couple more seats, and go higher (longer weightless ride). Then fly the sucker back home to land next to the first stage. More revenue per flight.

    Before everybody starts taking me apart, I realize this is a silly idea. I just wanted to point out that there are dozens of ways to get to space with all the hardware we’re making. The culture difference between VG and BO is far too immense to join together.

  • Malatrope

    Yes. The Trump of space exploitation! I wish he’d hurry up so I could book a room before I kick off…

  • Malatrope

    Falcon Heavy will get him to the moon.

  • Snofru Chufu

    Re

  • Snofru Chufu

    A central erroneous element of liberalism is the fact he supports what will later destroy it (and not only itself, but whole many centuries old European societies), for example by
    allowed, supported massive immigration of millions of Muslims. Liberalism is not able to divide between the “Own” and the “Alien” (regarding interests, people, history, tradition, ethnics, …). The result is the destruction of the “Own”, because the “Alien” does not own that crazy liberal view and overtakes.

  • Snofru Chufu

    I am takling for example about ongoing, accelerating, enforced replacement of Europeans by millions of Muslims.

  • Aerospike

    I guess Masten Space Systems would love to get a contract for a fleet of Moon landers 😉

    But let us not forget, that SpaceX and BO have pretty much dialed in their landings as well by now, so those could build landers as well.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    Sure, to start with and for NASA missions to ISS. If other destinations become available, then all seats could be filled to slightly improve the per seat economics. Clearly though, Dragon sized vehicles will need to be superseded by larger space craft for the orbital, lunar and Martian dream to become reality.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    Yes, but we know the starting figure is closer to $140M; don’t know where $200M was pulled from.

  • Snofru Chufu

    Masten Space System may be a very good small company, but it is not able to handle a billion dollar development contract of this complexity.

  • TimAndrews868

    “Billlionaires do not like to spend large amounts of money on investments with no return;”

    So the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation doesn’t exist?

  • ReSpaceAge

    WHY DOESNT THE CAPE PROVIDE AND OIL RIG SIZE LANDING PAD FOR ITS TENANTS???

    Jeff Bezos wants to patient Barge landing to stop future companies from using that to make reusability affordable for all.

    Should all spaceport have launch pads and landing pads both land and water??

    SpaceX takes position that it is an patentable idea.

    Shouldn’t NASA reinforce that idea by providing landing zones for all.

    In this new age all launch complexes should have landing zones.

  • Malatrope

    As Mazda used to say (or do they still?): “Zoom-zoom!”

  • Please stop posting two letter replies. It’s not clear what you’re actually saying. They end up in the Pending folder and I have to go process them.

  • Jacob Samorodin

    Better question; How did Bill become a billionaire in the first place? By investing what he had and expecting no return? Nought.

  • Snofru Chufu

    The following linked article may help to start a thought process in order to get another, new view of things.

    http://andune.blogspot.de/2006/10/is-star-trek-utopian-communist-fantasy_18.html

  • TimAndrews868

    Yes. Non-billionaires invest, get a return and become billionaires.

    After they are billionaires there are numerous examples – such as Bezos, Musk, Gates, Paul Allen, etc. of investment with little to no likely return.

  • mfck

    Reusable and have a fairly automated turn around and launch processing, i would add