Across the government and private sectors, more vehicles are now being built for human spaceflight than at any other point in history. Today’s NASA human spaceflight program is an ecosystem of diverse activity – developing both exploration systems and commercial transportation services. These elements are strategically linked to one another and vital to the success of the overall human spaceflight program.
In the field of suborbital spaceflight, private companies are developing spacecraft to take hundreds of paying customers briefly into space. If current trends continue, the suborbital market is predicted to have baseline revenue of $600 million over the first 10 years of operations. Already, one suborbital space transportation company, Virgin Galactic, is nearing 800 deposits for paying customers.
In low Earth orbit, three companies have won the most recent round of NASA funding, known as Commercial Crew Integrated Capabilities to develop new space transportation systems to the International Space Station (ISS) and open potential new markets for space transportation: Boeing, Sierra Nevada and SpaceX. All three have made steady progress to build U.S. domestic access to
the ISS and end our dependency on the Russians.
For deep space exploration, the space industry is building vehicles to extend our reach further into the solar system than we have ever gone before. To expand human access to the solar system, two foundational vehicles are being built – a new heavy lift rocket called the Space Launch System and the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle called Orion. Orion will serve as the primary spacecraft to send NASA astronauts to destinations beyond low Earth orbit. Just as the Space Shuttle was a vehicle with many uses – from scientific experimentation, satellite servicing and space station construction – NASA’s next generation exploration vehicles will be equipped to take on multiple mission types for deep space exploration.
The human spaceflight programs established in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 and agreed upon by the White House and Congress have made incredible progress. By continuing steady and consistent support for these programs, exploration programs and commercial space transportation services will extend our reach farther than we’ve ever gone before – all for the benefit of life on Earth.