The Space Reviewin association with SpaceNews

The efforts of companies like Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic, and their visionary leaders, are making commercial human spaceflight a reality. (credit: J. Foust)

Visionaries of commercial spaceflight

Like the airline industry of the 1930s, today’s personal and commercial spaceflight business is being driven by visionaries who recognize its tremendous value for serious advancements in science, research, earth monitoring, and the commerce of human space exploration.

Gone are the days when personal and commercial spaceflight was the stuff of science fiction. Today, we’ve entered a new and different space age. Many experts predict that the first suborbital space tourism flights will occur in this decade. In just a few decades, we’ve gone from science fiction to science fact.

Gone too are the days when space was the exclusive territory of the United States and the former Soviet Union. Instead, space has become the purview of many nations and many commercial enterprises, even as space priorities are now driven increasingly by financial considerations and less by government policy.

There are encouraging signs that the US and many other industry players have recognized that it’s time for a renewed effort in this final frontier.

Since the 1990s there has been a growing recognition that the United States needs to redouble its efforts in space. Experts say the US should increase its capacity and access to space for multiple purposes, including point-to-point travel, cargo delivery, and research payloads. A July 2008 front page Washington Post article summed it up clearly, “U.S. Finds It’s Getting Crowded Out There: Dominance in Space Slips as Other Nations Step Up Efforts”.

But there are encouraging signs that the US and many other industry players have recognized that it’s time for a renewed effort in this final frontier. For example, New Mexico is emerging as a key hub for personal and commercial space travel. The New Mexico Space Grant Consortium is a focal point for leading-edge developments in personal and commercial spaceflight.

New Mexico is also the home of Spaceport America, the nation’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport, designed with the needs of the commercial space business in mind. And New Mexico’s importance as a center for personal commercial spaceflight is highlighted by its October 21-28 “Space Week” featuring the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS) conference, the Leonard R. Sugerman Public Forum on the business of space, and the Global Spaceport Federation meeting.

From policymakers of bipartisan stripes, including Newt Gingrich and Al Gore, to entrepreneurs such as Virgin’s Richard Branson, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, SpaceX’s Elon Musk, and Lockheed Martin Space Systems’ Joanne Maguire, many of today’s top thought-leaders have called for increased investment in personal and commercial spaceflight and suborbital travel.

The “space scape” today is clear: A growing number of nations and companies have identified areas of real-time profit in personal and commercial spaceflight. The International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight acts as a key clearinghouse to examine, discuss, debate, and further the business of this exciting and dynamic industry.