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“NewSpace” The Coming Revolution in Commercial Human Spaceflight. Bigelow Aerospace “Genesis-1” in orbit, July 2006. Manned Orbital. Space Shuttle (USA) [to 2010?] Ares 1/Orion Block 1 (USA) [from 2014] Soyuz (Russia) Shenzhou (China). Space Habitat.

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The Coming Revolution in Commercial Human Spaceflight

Bigelow Aerospace “Genesis-1”in orbit, July 2006


Manned Orbital

Space Shuttle (USA) [to 2010?]Ares 1/Orion Block 1 (USA) [from 2014]Soyuz (Russia)Shenzhou (China)

Space Habitat

International Space Station [to 2016?]

Deep Space

Ares 1/Ares 5/Orion Block 2 (USA) [from 2018-2020?]

- “Apollo on Steroids”


Manned Suborbital

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo (USA/UK) Armadillo Aerospace VDR (USA)RpK Rocketplane XP (USA) Starchaser Thunderstar (UK)

Blue Origin New Shephard (USA) ARCA Stabilo (Romania)Prodea Explorer (Russia/USA) CANDSPACE Proteus (S.Korea)Planetspace Canadian Arrow (Canada/USA)

Manned Orbital

Space Shuttle (USA) [to 2010?] Rocketplane Kistler K-1 OV (USA)Ares 1/Orion Block 1 (USA) [from 2014] PlanetSpace Silver Dart (Canada/USA)Soyuz (Russia) SpaceX Dragon (USA)Shenzhou (China)

Space Habitat

International Space Station [to 2016?]Bigelow Aerospace Sundancer (USA)Bigelow Aerospace BA-330 (USA)

Deep Space

Ares1/Ares 5/Orion Block 2 (USA) [from 2018-2020?]

CSI Lunar Express (Russia/USA)

Deep Space Expedition Alpha (Russia/USA)

SpaceX Lunar Dragon? (USA)



  • Major military contractors
  • Government “cost-plus” contracts($500 hammers)
  • Large project teams(~20,000 people in United Space Alliance)
  • Politicised funding (“porkbarrel”)


  • Small entrepreneurial companies(e.g. Masten Space Systems – 5 full-time employees)
  • Fixed-price commercial contracts
  • Rapid development cycle(“Build a lot, fly a lot”)
  • Off-the-shelf technology

History of Space Commerce

  • 1970's: communication satellites
  • 1980's: earth resources satellites, space manufacturing (ISF)
  • 1990's: navigation (GPS), satellite internet (Iridium, Globalstar, Teledesic)
  • 2000's: space tourism? (Ansari X-Prize)
  • 2010's: commercial space stations? (America's Space Prize)

Virgin Galactic

  • Carrier aircraft (White Knight 2) and suborbital rocketplane (SpaceShipTwo)
  • Designed and built by Burt Rutan, funded by Richard Branson
  • $250M investment
    • 5 spacecraft
    • 2 carrier aircraft
    • $100M for new spaceport at Upham, New Mexico

Virgin Galactic

  • 140km max altitude, ~5min of microgravity. $200,000 per seat
  • ~200 customers now, est. 500 by first commercial flight
  • WK2 rollout Farnborough 2007. Spacecraft test flights 2008-2009
  • British flight test crew
  • Commercial service 2009

Rocketplane XP

  • Rebuilt LearJet 25, conversion to suborbital spaceplane
  • Takeoff under jet power, ignites rocket at altitude
  • Operating from Oklahoma Spaceport (former Strategic Air Command base).
  • Pilot + 3 passengers
  • Space tourism, nanosat launch
  • First test flight 2008?

Blue Origin

  • Funded by Jeff Bezos (
  • Own private spaceport in Cuthbertson County, TX
  • VTVL modular design (“New Shepard”)
  • Nov 2006: First prototype launch successful
  • Test flights every 1-2 weeks
  • Manned flights to 100km by 2010

Armadillo Aerospace

  • Founded by John Carmack (creator of Doom, Quake)
  • 8 people working part-time, total spend ~$2.5M
  • VTVL unmanned tech demos
  • 2004:successful hop test
  • 2004:vehicle crash
  • Oct 2006: entered NASA Lunar Lander Challenge ($1.3M prizes)


  • NASA programme “Commercial Orbital Transportation Services” (also stands for “Commercial Off-The-Shelf”)
  • Develop commercial ISS resupply (buy tickets, don't build rockets)
  • $500M between two companies for cargo transport by 2010, with option for crew transport
  • Fixed-price contract, dependent on technical milestones
  • August 2006: Award split between two companies, SpaceX and Rocketplane Kistler


  • `Founded by Elon Musk (
  • Aims to provide launches 3-5x cheaper than US competition
  • March 2006: Falcon-1 test launch failed, engine fire and shutdown
  • Q1 2007: Second Falcon-1 test launch
  • Q1 2007: Test firing Falcon-9 1st stage
  • Dragon manned capsule under development. First Dragon demo fight 2008, first manned flight 2010?

SpaceX Dragon

Launch configuration

Dragon atop SpaceXFalcon-9 launch vehicle

On-orbit configuration



  • K-1: TSTO, fully reusable, recovery via parachutes & airbags
  • Launch from Woomera, Australia
  • Fleet of 5, launch every 2 weeks
  • Cost: $21M per launch
  • $207M under COTS programme
  • Prototype 75% hardware complete now
  • First launch 2009-2010.

Bigelow Aerospace

  • Bob Bigelow, US hotel entrepreneur
  • $500M of own money for inflatable manned space station modules (TransHab, ex-NASA program)
  • 1/3-scale test modules- Genesis-I: in orbit- Genesis-II: launch Q1 2007
  • Sundancer: man-capable module 2009
  • BA-330: full-scale permanently manned station 2011?
  • Working with Lockheed-Martin on crew transport
  • Orbital tourism, commercial research, space manufacturing

Genesis-I in orbit


Why should we care?

  • It's cool
  • It's British!
  • Cheaper space operations = less pressure on space science budgets
  • Cheap/free and frequent flight opportunities for science payloads
  • Building commercial space infrastructure makes doing anything in space easier, including science.

The UK has a head start in this industry, but it could easily be lost due to governmental, institutional and public indifference.