2019 is the Year of Commercial Space Travel

Launch
December 10, 2018
Author
Chad Anderson
Jessica Holland
December 10, 2018
Authors
Chad Anderson
Jessica Holland

It’s been seven and a half years since an astronaut was launched into space on an American shuttle or from U.S. soil. During that time, NASA has relied solely on the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, to deliver its crew to the International Space Station—like Anne McClain, who blasted off from Kazakhstan to the ISS on 3rd December, with crew mates from Russia and Canada.

That’s all about to change as commercial companies—SpaceX, Boeing, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic—inch closer to the finish line they’ve been aiming toward for years. The winner will make history as the first privately funded company to launch humans into space, and all signs point to this feat being accomplished in 2019.  

Breakthrough for crewed missions while small launch matures

This time last year, we predicted that 2018 would be the ‘Year of Small Launch,’ and we’ve watched that prediction come true. Rocket Lab has now delivered ten satellites to orbit from the coast of New Zealand with its small Electron rocket. Vector and LandSpace have begun carrying out test flights for their own small launch vehicles, and Virgin Orbit and Firefly look poised to follow suit soon. In the spring of 2018, Ursa Major shipped its first commercial engine targeted at the small-launch market.

This market will continue to grow and mature in 2019, but 2018 was the year that the first major milestone was passed. Looking forward to the year ahead, it’s clear that an equivalent transformation will take place in the realm of commercial space travel.

Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic racing to offer space tourism

For private companies, there are two types of crewed missions. The first is space tourism, and both Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin are racing to start offering suborbital flights, with a short period during which tourists can float in zero gravity. For Blue Origin customers, this means crossing the 62-mile Karman Line that marks the boundary of outer space, while Virgin Galactic passengers will cross the lower 50-mile mark, the point at which NASA crew members receive their astronaut wings.

Blue Origin's Mannequin Skywalker aboard the New Shephard capsule

The spacecraft of both companies have already gone through extensive testing, although only Virgin has flown with crew onboard. Jeff Bezos said in September that he expects to launch a crewed mission in 2019, while Richard Branson told a CNN reporter in November that he is “pretty confident” his test pilots can send Virgin’s SpaceShipTwo into suborbital space by the end of 2018.

Virgin Galactic's third powered test flight on July 26, 2018

“New era” as SpaceX and Boeing prepare to fly NASA crew

As Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin continue their tests, firm plans are in place for Boeing and SpaceX to start shuttling NASA astronauts into orbit, with crews already publicly announced and target launch schedules in place. NASA called this public-private partnership “the beginning of a new era of human spaceflight” and “an unprecedented achievement for the commercial space industry” as the agency forges ahead with its plans to return humans to the Moon and then get them to Mars.

NASA's commercial crew for Boeing and SpaceX

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is scheduled to have its first unpiloted demonstration in January 2019 and, if all goes well, it will launch for the first time with crew onboard in June. Boeing’s own uncrewed and crewed test flights of its CST-100 Starliner, which will be launched using a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, are slated for March and August 2019, respectively. Both companies will launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and the team assigned to their missions are NASA astronauts, with the exception of Boeing’s “corporate astronaut” Chris Ferguson, who previously piloted NASA shuttles and served as a U.S. Navy Captain.

Reliance on Russia to end as US aims for Moon and Mars

NASA has been pursuing a commercial solution for crewed spaceflight ever since it ended its Space Shuttle program in July 2011. Since then, the cost to fly an astronaut to the International Space Station aboard a Roscosmos Soyuz spacecraft has soared, from a low of $21.8m in 2007 to more than $80m in 2016.

Getting to the I.S.S. isn’t the only reason American astronauts want access to space. When the US President signed Space Policy Directive 1 in December 2017, he explained that the policy “will refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery.” The overall aim, he said, was “returning American astronauts to the Moon” where they would not just leave flags and footprints but “establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, worlds beyond."

The Moon and Mars are two destinations that are also firmly in Elon Musk’s sights; he famously said that he wants to die on the red planet, “just not on impact.” While Musk’s dreams of a Martian colony remain aspirational, he announced in September that SpaceX has agreed to take billionaire fashion entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa and a handful of artists on a several-day trip around the moon—the company just needs to build the technology that will get them there first. The fully reusable “Super Heavy Rocket” and “Starship” spacecraft are due to be completed in 2023 at the earliest, and Maezawa’s fare will defray some of the multibillion development costs.

When companies can get people safely into space—both in partnership with space agencies and independently—the possibilities for exploration and progress are endless, going far beyond shuttles to the I.S.S. and sightseeing voyages to the moon. We’re confident that 2019 will be the year that this giant leap in capability takes place, and the long-awaited era of commercial space travel finally begins.


It’s been seven and a half years since an astronaut was launched into space on an American shuttle or from U.S. soil. During that time, NASA has relied solely on the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, to deliver its crew to the International Space Station—like Anne McClain, who blasted off from Kazakhstan to the ISS on 3rd December, with crew mates from Russia and Canada.

That’s all about to change as commercial companies—SpaceX, Boeing, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic—inch closer to the finish line they’ve been aiming toward for years. The winner will make history as the first privately funded company to launch humans into space, and all signs point to this feat being accomplished in 2019.  

Breakthrough for crewed missions while small launch matures

This time last year, we predicted that 2018 would be the ‘Year of Small Launch,’ and we’ve watched that prediction come true. Rocket Lab has now delivered ten satellites to orbit from the coast of New Zealand with its small Electron rocket. Vector and LandSpace have begun carrying out test flights for their own small launch vehicles, and Virgin Orbit and Firefly look poised to follow suit soon. In the spring of 2018, Ursa Major shipped its first commercial engine targeted at the small-launch market.

This market will continue to grow and mature in 2019, but 2018 was the year that the first major milestone was passed. Looking forward to the year ahead, it’s clear that an equivalent transformation will take place in the realm of commercial space travel.

Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic racing to offer space tourism

For private companies, there are two types of crewed missions. The first is space tourism, and both Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin are racing to start offering suborbital flights, with a short period during which tourists can float in zero gravity. For Blue Origin customers, this means crossing the 62-mile Karman Line that marks the boundary of outer space, while Virgin Galactic passengers will cross the lower 50-mile mark, the point at which NASA crew members receive their astronaut wings.

Blue Origin's Mannequin Skywalker aboard the New Shephard capsule

The spacecraft of both companies have already gone through extensive testing, although only Virgin has flown with crew onboard. Jeff Bezos said in September that he expects to launch a crewed mission in 2019, while Richard Branson told a CNN reporter in November that he is “pretty confident” his test pilots can send Virgin’s SpaceShipTwo into suborbital space by the end of 2018.

Virgin Galactic's third powered test flight on July 26, 2018

“New era” as SpaceX and Boeing prepare to fly NASA crew

As Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin continue their tests, firm plans are in place for Boeing and SpaceX to start shuttling NASA astronauts into orbit, with crews already publicly announced and target launch schedules in place. NASA called this public-private partnership “the beginning of a new era of human spaceflight” and “an unprecedented achievement for the commercial space industry” as the agency forges ahead with its plans to return humans to the Moon and then get them to Mars.

NASA's commercial crew for Boeing and SpaceX

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is scheduled to have its first unpiloted demonstration in January 2019 and, if all goes well, it will launch for the first time with crew onboard in June. Boeing’s own uncrewed and crewed test flights of its CST-100 Starliner, which will be launched using a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, are slated for March and August 2019, respectively. Both companies will launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and the team assigned to their missions are NASA astronauts, with the exception of Boeing’s “corporate astronaut” Chris Ferguson, who previously piloted NASA shuttles and served as a U.S. Navy Captain.

Reliance on Russia to end as US aims for Moon and Mars

NASA has been pursuing a commercial solution for crewed spaceflight ever since it ended its Space Shuttle program in July 2011. Since then, the cost to fly an astronaut to the International Space Station aboard a Roscosmos Soyuz spacecraft has soared, from a low of $21.8m in 2007 to more than $80m in 2016.

Getting to the I.S.S. isn’t the only reason American astronauts want access to space. When the US President signed Space Policy Directive 1 in December 2017, he explained that the policy “will refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery.” The overall aim, he said, was “returning American astronauts to the Moon” where they would not just leave flags and footprints but “establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, worlds beyond."

The Moon and Mars are two destinations that are also firmly in Elon Musk’s sights; he famously said that he wants to die on the red planet, “just not on impact.” While Musk’s dreams of a Martian colony remain aspirational, he announced in September that SpaceX has agreed to take billionaire fashion entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa and a handful of artists on a several-day trip around the moon—the company just needs to build the technology that will get them there first. The fully reusable “Super Heavy Rocket” and “Starship” spacecraft are due to be completed in 2023 at the earliest, and Maezawa’s fare will defray some of the multibillion development costs.

When companies can get people safely into space—both in partnership with space agencies and independently—the possibilities for exploration and progress are endless, going far beyond shuttles to the I.S.S. and sightseeing voyages to the moon. We’re confident that 2019 will be the year that this giant leap in capability takes place, and the long-awaited era of commercial space travel finally begins.


It’s been seven and a half years since an astronaut was launched into space on an American shuttle or from U.S. soil. During that time, NASA has relied solely on the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, to deliver its crew to the International Space Station—like Anne McClain, who blasted off from Kazakhstan to the ISS on 3rd December, with crew mates from Russia and Canada.

That’s all about to change as commercial companies—SpaceX, Boeing, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic—inch closer to the finish line they’ve been aiming toward for years. The winner will make history as the first privately funded company to launch humans into space, and all signs point to this feat being accomplished in 2019.  

Breakthrough for crewed missions while small launch matures

This time last year, we predicted that 2018 would be the ‘Year of Small Launch,’ and we’ve watched that prediction come true. Rocket Lab has now delivered ten satellites to orbit from the coast of New Zealand with its small Electron rocket. Vector and LandSpace have begun carrying out test flights for their own small launch vehicles, and Virgin Orbit and Firefly look poised to follow suit soon. In the spring of 2018, Ursa Major shipped its first commercial engine targeted at the small-launch market.

This market will continue to grow and mature in 2019, but 2018 was the year that the first major milestone was passed. Looking forward to the year ahead, it’s clear that an equivalent transformation will take place in the realm of commercial space travel.

Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic racing to offer space tourism

For private companies, there are two types of crewed missions. The first is space tourism, and both Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin are racing to start offering suborbital flights, with a short period during which tourists can float in zero gravity. For Blue Origin customers, this means crossing the 62-mile Karman Line that marks the boundary of outer space, while Virgin Galactic passengers will cross the lower 50-mile mark, the point at which NASA crew members receive their astronaut wings.

Blue Origin's Mannequin Skywalker aboard the New Shephard capsule

The spacecraft of both companies have already gone through extensive testing, although only Virgin has flown with crew onboard. Jeff Bezos said in September that he expects to launch a crewed mission in 2019, while Richard Branson told a CNN reporter in November that he is “pretty confident” his test pilots can send Virgin’s SpaceShipTwo into suborbital space by the end of 2018.

Virgin Galactic's third powered test flight on July 26, 2018

“New era” as SpaceX and Boeing prepare to fly NASA crew

As Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin continue their tests, firm plans are in place for Boeing and SpaceX to start shuttling NASA astronauts into orbit, with crews already publicly announced and target launch schedules in place. NASA called this public-private partnership “the beginning of a new era of human spaceflight” and “an unprecedented achievement for the commercial space industry” as the agency forges ahead with its plans to return humans to the Moon and then get them to Mars.

NASA's commercial crew for Boeing and SpaceX

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is scheduled to have its first unpiloted demonstration in January 2019 and, if all goes well, it will launch for the first time with crew onboard in June. Boeing’s own uncrewed and crewed test flights of its CST-100 Starliner, which will be launched using a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, are slated for March and August 2019, respectively. Both companies will launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and the team assigned to their missions are NASA astronauts, with the exception of Boeing’s “corporate astronaut” Chris Ferguson, who previously piloted NASA shuttles and served as a U.S. Navy Captain.

Reliance on Russia to end as US aims for Moon and Mars

NASA has been pursuing a commercial solution for crewed spaceflight ever since it ended its Space Shuttle program in July 2011. Since then, the cost to fly an astronaut to the International Space Station aboard a Roscosmos Soyuz spacecraft has soared, from a low of $21.8m in 2007 to more than $80m in 2016.

Getting to the I.S.S. isn’t the only reason American astronauts want access to space. When the US President signed Space Policy Directive 1 in December 2017, he explained that the policy “will refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery.” The overall aim, he said, was “returning American astronauts to the Moon” where they would not just leave flags and footprints but “establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, worlds beyond."

The Moon and Mars are two destinations that are also firmly in Elon Musk’s sights; he famously said that he wants to die on the red planet, “just not on impact.” While Musk’s dreams of a Martian colony remain aspirational, he announced in September that SpaceX has agreed to take billionaire fashion entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa and a handful of artists on a several-day trip around the moon—the company just needs to build the technology that will get them there first. The fully reusable “Super Heavy Rocket” and “Starship” spacecraft are due to be completed in 2023 at the earliest, and Maezawa’s fare will defray some of the multibillion development costs.

When companies can get people safely into space—both in partnership with space agencies and independently—the possibilities for exploration and progress are endless, going far beyond shuttles to the I.S.S. and sightseeing voyages to the moon. We’re confident that 2019 will be the year that this giant leap in capability takes place, and the long-awaited era of commercial space travel finally begins.


It’s been seven and a half years since an astronaut was launched into space on an American shuttle or from U.S. soil. During that time, NASA has relied solely on the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, to deliver its crew to the International Space Station—like Anne McClain, who blasted off from Kazakhstan to the ISS on 3rd December, with crew mates from Russia and Canada.

That’s all about to change as commercial companies—SpaceX, Boeing, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic—inch closer to the finish line they’ve been aiming toward for years. The winner will make history as the first privately funded company to launch humans into space, and all signs point to this feat being accomplished in 2019.  

Breakthrough for crewed missions while small launch matures

This time last year, we predicted that 2018 would be the ‘Year of Small Launch,’ and we’ve watched that prediction come true. Rocket Lab has now delivered ten satellites to orbit from the coast of New Zealand with its small Electron rocket. Vector and LandSpace have begun carrying out test flights for their own small launch vehicles, and Virgin Orbit and Firefly look poised to follow suit soon. In the spring of 2018, Ursa Major shipped its first commercial engine targeted at the small-launch market.

This market will continue to grow and mature in 2019, but 2018 was the year that the first major milestone was passed. Looking forward to the year ahead, it’s clear that an equivalent transformation will take place in the realm of commercial space travel.

Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic racing to offer space tourism

For private companies, there are two types of crewed missions. The first is space tourism, and both Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin are racing to start offering suborbital flights, with a short period during which tourists can float in zero gravity. For Blue Origin customers, this means crossing the 62-mile Karman Line that marks the boundary of outer space, while Virgin Galactic passengers will cross the lower 50-mile mark, the point at which NASA crew members receive their astronaut wings.

Blue Origin's Mannequin Skywalker aboard the New Shephard capsule

The spacecraft of both companies have already gone through extensive testing, although only Virgin has flown with crew onboard. Jeff Bezos said in September that he expects to launch a crewed mission in 2019, while Richard Branson told a CNN reporter in November that he is “pretty confident” his test pilots can send Virgin’s SpaceShipTwo into suborbital space by the end of 2018.

Virgin Galactic's third powered test flight on July 26, 2018

“New era” as SpaceX and Boeing prepare to fly NASA crew

As Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin continue their tests, firm plans are in place for Boeing and SpaceX to start shuttling NASA astronauts into orbit, with crews already publicly announced and target launch schedules in place. NASA called this public-private partnership “the beginning of a new era of human spaceflight” and “an unprecedented achievement for the commercial space industry” as the agency forges ahead with its plans to return humans to the Moon and then get them to Mars.

NASA's commercial crew for Boeing and SpaceX

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is scheduled to have its first unpiloted demonstration in January 2019 and, if all goes well, it will launch for the first time with crew onboard in June. Boeing’s own uncrewed and crewed test flights of its CST-100 Starliner, which will be launched using a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, are slated for March and August 2019, respectively. Both companies will launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and the team assigned to their missions are NASA astronauts, with the exception of Boeing’s “corporate astronaut” Chris Ferguson, who previously piloted NASA shuttles and served as a U.S. Navy Captain.

Reliance on Russia to end as US aims for Moon and Mars

NASA has been pursuing a commercial solution for crewed spaceflight ever since it ended its Space Shuttle program in July 2011. Since then, the cost to fly an astronaut to the International Space Station aboard a Roscosmos Soyuz spacecraft has soared, from a low of $21.8m in 2007 to more than $80m in 2016.

Getting to the I.S.S. isn’t the only reason American astronauts want access to space. When the US President signed Space Policy Directive 1 in December 2017, he explained that the policy “will refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery.” The overall aim, he said, was “returning American astronauts to the Moon” where they would not just leave flags and footprints but “establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, worlds beyond."

The Moon and Mars are two destinations that are also firmly in Elon Musk’s sights; he famously said that he wants to die on the red planet, “just not on impact.” While Musk’s dreams of a Martian colony remain aspirational, he announced in September that SpaceX has agreed to take billionaire fashion entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa and a handful of artists on a several-day trip around the moon—the company just needs to build the technology that will get them there first. The fully reusable “Super Heavy Rocket” and “Starship” spacecraft are due to be completed in 2023 at the earliest, and Maezawa’s fare will defray some of the multibillion development costs.

When companies can get people safely into space—both in partnership with space agencies and independently—the possibilities for exploration and progress are endless, going far beyond shuttles to the I.S.S. and sightseeing voyages to the moon. We’re confident that 2019 will be the year that this giant leap in capability takes place, and the long-awaited era of commercial space travel finally begins.


It’s been seven and a half years since an astronaut was launched into space on an American shuttle or from U.S. soil. During that time, NASA has relied solely on the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, to deliver its crew to the International Space Station—like Anne McClain, who blasted off from Kazakhstan to the ISS on 3rd December, with crew mates from Russia and Canada.

That’s all about to change as commercial companies—SpaceX, Boeing, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic—inch closer to the finish line they’ve been aiming toward for years. The winner will make history as the first privately funded company to launch humans into space, and all signs point to this feat being accomplished in 2019.  

Breakthrough for crewed missions while small launch matures

This time last year, we predicted that 2018 would be the ‘Year of Small Launch,’ and we’ve watched that prediction come true. Rocket Lab has now delivered ten satellites to orbit from the coast of New Zealand with its small Electron rocket. Vector and LandSpace have begun carrying out test flights for their own small launch vehicles, and Virgin Orbit and Firefly look poised to follow suit soon. In the spring of 2018, Ursa Major shipped its first commercial engine targeted at the small-launch market.

This market will continue to grow and mature in 2019, but 2018 was the year that the first major milestone was passed. Looking forward to the year ahead, it’s clear that an equivalent transformation will take place in the realm of commercial space travel.

Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic racing to offer space tourism

For private companies, there are two types of crewed missions. The first is space tourism, and both Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin are racing to start offering suborbital flights, with a short period during which tourists can float in zero gravity. For Blue Origin customers, this means crossing the 62-mile Karman Line that marks the boundary of outer space, while Virgin Galactic passengers will cross the lower 50-mile mark, the point at which NASA crew members receive their astronaut wings.

Blue Origin's Mannequin Skywalker aboard the New Shephard capsule

The spacecraft of both companies have already gone through extensive testing, although only Virgin has flown with crew onboard. Jeff Bezos said in September that he expects to launch a crewed mission in 2019, while Richard Branson told a CNN reporter in November that he is “pretty confident” his test pilots can send Virgin’s SpaceShipTwo into suborbital space by the end of 2018.

Virgin Galactic's third powered test flight on July 26, 2018

“New era” as SpaceX and Boeing prepare to fly NASA crew

As Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin continue their tests, firm plans are in place for Boeing and SpaceX to start shuttling NASA astronauts into orbit, with crews already publicly announced and target launch schedules in place. NASA called this public-private partnership “the beginning of a new era of human spaceflight” and “an unprecedented achievement for the commercial space industry” as the agency forges ahead with its plans to return humans to the Moon and then get them to Mars.

NASA's commercial crew for Boeing and SpaceX

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is scheduled to have its first unpiloted demonstration in January 2019 and, if all goes well, it will launch for the first time with crew onboard in June. Boeing’s own uncrewed and crewed test flights of its CST-100 Starliner, which will be launched using a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, are slated for March and August 2019, respectively. Both companies will launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and the team assigned to their missions are NASA astronauts, with the exception of Boeing’s “corporate astronaut” Chris Ferguson, who previously piloted NASA shuttles and served as a U.S. Navy Captain.

Reliance on Russia to end as US aims for Moon and Mars

NASA has been pursuing a commercial solution for crewed spaceflight ever since it ended its Space Shuttle program in July 2011. Since then, the cost to fly an astronaut to the International Space Station aboard a Roscosmos Soyuz spacecraft has soared, from a low of $21.8m in 2007 to more than $80m in 2016.

Getting to the I.S.S. isn’t the only reason American astronauts want access to space. When the US President signed Space Policy Directive 1 in December 2017, he explained that the policy “will refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery.” The overall aim, he said, was “returning American astronauts to the Moon” where they would not just leave flags and footprints but “establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, worlds beyond."

The Moon and Mars are two destinations that are also firmly in Elon Musk’s sights; he famously said that he wants to die on the red planet, “just not on impact.” While Musk’s dreams of a Martian colony remain aspirational, he announced in September that SpaceX has agreed to take billionaire fashion entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa and a handful of artists on a several-day trip around the moon—the company just needs to build the technology that will get them there first. The fully reusable “Super Heavy Rocket” and “Starship” spacecraft are due to be completed in 2023 at the earliest, and Maezawa’s fare will defray some of the multibillion development costs.

When companies can get people safely into space—both in partnership with space agencies and independently—the possibilities for exploration and progress are endless, going far beyond shuttles to the I.S.S. and sightseeing voyages to the moon. We’re confident that 2019 will be the year that this giant leap in capability takes place, and the long-awaited era of commercial space travel finally begins.


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It’s been seven and a half years since an astronaut was launched into space on an American shuttle or from U.S. soil. During that time, NASA has relied solely on the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, to deliver its crew to the International Space Station—like Anne McClain, who blasted off from Kazakhstan to the ISS on 3rd December, with crew mates from Russia and Canada.

That’s all about to change as commercial companies—SpaceX, Boeing, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic—inch closer to the finish line they’ve been aiming toward for years. The winner will make history as the first privately funded company to launch humans into space, and all signs point to this feat being accomplished in 2019.  

Breakthrough for crewed missions while small launch matures

This time last year, we predicted that 2018 would be the ‘Year of Small Launch,’ and we’ve watched that prediction come true. Rocket Lab has now delivered ten satellites to orbit from the coast of New Zealand with its small Electron rocket. Vector and LandSpace have begun carrying out test flights for their own small launch vehicles, and Virgin Orbit and Firefly look poised to follow suit soon. In the spring of 2018, Ursa Major shipped its first commercial engine targeted at the small-launch market.

This market will continue to grow and mature in 2019, but 2018 was the year that the first major milestone was passed. Looking forward to the year ahead, it’s clear that an equivalent transformation will take place in the realm of commercial space travel.

Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic racing to offer space tourism

For private companies, there are two types of crewed missions. The first is space tourism, and both Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin are racing to start offering suborbital flights, with a short period during which tourists can float in zero gravity. For Blue Origin customers, this means crossing the 62-mile Karman Line that marks the boundary of outer space, while Virgin Galactic passengers will cross the lower 50-mile mark, the point at which NASA crew members receive their astronaut wings.

Blue Origin's Mannequin Skywalker aboard the New Shephard capsule

The spacecraft of both companies have already gone through extensive testing, although only Virgin has flown with crew onboard. Jeff Bezos said in September that he expects to launch a crewed mission in 2019, while Richard Branson told a CNN reporter in November that he is “pretty confident” his test pilots can send Virgin’s SpaceShipTwo into suborbital space by the end of 2018.

Virgin Galactic's third powered test flight on July 26, 2018

“New era” as SpaceX and Boeing prepare to fly NASA crew

As Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin continue their tests, firm plans are in place for Boeing and SpaceX to start shuttling NASA astronauts into orbit, with crews already publicly announced and target launch schedules in place. NASA called this public-private partnership “the beginning of a new era of human spaceflight” and “an unprecedented achievement for the commercial space industry” as the agency forges ahead with its plans to return humans to the Moon and then get them to Mars.

NASA's commercial crew for Boeing and SpaceX

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is scheduled to have its first unpiloted demonstration in January 2019 and, if all goes well, it will launch for the first time with crew onboard in June. Boeing’s own uncrewed and crewed test flights of its CST-100 Starliner, which will be launched using a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, are slated for March and August 2019, respectively. Both companies will launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and the team assigned to their missions are NASA astronauts, with the exception of Boeing’s “corporate astronaut” Chris Ferguson, who previously piloted NASA shuttles and served as a U.S. Navy Captain.

Reliance on Russia to end as US aims for Moon and Mars

NASA has been pursuing a commercial solution for crewed spaceflight ever since it ended its Space Shuttle program in July 2011. Since then, the cost to fly an astronaut to the International Space Station aboard a Roscosmos Soyuz spacecraft has soared, from a low of $21.8m in 2007 to more than $80m in 2016.

Getting to the I.S.S. isn’t the only reason American astronauts want access to space. When the US President signed Space Policy Directive 1 in December 2017, he explained that the policy “will refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery.” The overall aim, he said, was “returning American astronauts to the Moon” where they would not just leave flags and footprints but “establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, worlds beyond."

The Moon and Mars are two destinations that are also firmly in Elon Musk’s sights; he famously said that he wants to die on the red planet, “just not on impact.” While Musk’s dreams of a Martian colony remain aspirational, he announced in September that SpaceX has agreed to take billionaire fashion entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa and a handful of artists on a several-day trip around the moon—the company just needs to build the technology that will get them there first. The fully reusable “Super Heavy Rocket” and “Starship” spacecraft are due to be completed in 2023 at the earliest, and Maezawa’s fare will defray some of the multibillion development costs.

When companies can get people safely into space—both in partnership with space agencies and independently—the possibilities for exploration and progress are endless, going far beyond shuttles to the I.S.S. and sightseeing voyages to the moon. We’re confident that 2019 will be the year that this giant leap in capability takes place, and the long-awaited era of commercial space travel finally begins.


It’s been seven and a half years since an astronaut was launched into space on an American shuttle or from U.S. soil. During that time, NASA has relied solely on the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, to deliver its crew to the International Space Station—like Anne McClain, who blasted off from Kazakhstan to the ISS on 3rd December, with crew mates from Russia and Canada.

That’s all about to change as commercial companies—SpaceX, Boeing, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic—inch closer to the finish line they’ve been aiming toward for years. The winner will make history as the first privately funded company to launch humans into space, and all signs point to this feat being accomplished in 2019.  

Breakthrough for crewed missions while small launch matures

This time last year, we predicted that 2018 would be the ‘Year of Small Launch,’ and we’ve watched that prediction come true. Rocket Lab has now delivered ten satellites to orbit from the coast of New Zealand with its small Electron rocket. Vector and LandSpace have begun carrying out test flights for their own small launch vehicles, and Virgin Orbit and Firefly look poised to follow suit soon. In the spring of 2018, Ursa Major shipped its first commercial engine targeted at the small-launch market.

This market will continue to grow and mature in 2019, but 2018 was the year that the first major milestone was passed. Looking forward to the year ahead, it’s clear that an equivalent transformation will take place in the realm of commercial space travel.

Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic racing to offer space tourism

For private companies, there are two types of crewed missions. The first is space tourism, and both Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin are racing to start offering suborbital flights, with a short period during which tourists can float in zero gravity. For Blue Origin customers, this means crossing the 62-mile Karman Line that marks the boundary of outer space, while Virgin Galactic passengers will cross the lower 50-mile mark, the point at which NASA crew members receive their astronaut wings.

Blue Origin's Mannequin Skywalker aboard the New Shephard capsule

The spacecraft of both companies have already gone through extensive testing, although only Virgin has flown with crew onboard. Jeff Bezos said in September that he expects to launch a crewed mission in 2019, while Richard Branson told a CNN reporter in November that he is “pretty confident” his test pilots can send Virgin’s SpaceShipTwo into suborbital space by the end of 2018.

Virgin Galactic's third powered test flight on July 26, 2018

“New era” as SpaceX and Boeing prepare to fly NASA crew

As Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin continue their tests, firm plans are in place for Boeing and SpaceX to start shuttling NASA astronauts into orbit, with crews already publicly announced and target launch schedules in place. NASA called this public-private partnership “the beginning of a new era of human spaceflight” and “an unprecedented achievement for the commercial space industry” as the agency forges ahead with its plans to return humans to the Moon and then get them to Mars.

NASA's commercial crew for Boeing and SpaceX

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is scheduled to have its first unpiloted demonstration in January 2019 and, if all goes well, it will launch for the first time with crew onboard in June. Boeing’s own uncrewed and crewed test flights of its CST-100 Starliner, which will be launched using a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, are slated for March and August 2019, respectively. Both companies will launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and the team assigned to their missions are NASA astronauts, with the exception of Boeing’s “corporate astronaut” Chris Ferguson, who previously piloted NASA shuttles and served as a U.S. Navy Captain.

Reliance on Russia to end as US aims for Moon and Mars

NASA has been pursuing a commercial solution for crewed spaceflight ever since it ended its Space Shuttle program in July 2011. Since then, the cost to fly an astronaut to the International Space Station aboard a Roscosmos Soyuz spacecraft has soared, from a low of $21.8m in 2007 to more than $80m in 2016.

Getting to the I.S.S. isn’t the only reason American astronauts want access to space. When the US President signed Space Policy Directive 1 in December 2017, he explained that the policy “will refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery.” The overall aim, he said, was “returning American astronauts to the Moon” where they would not just leave flags and footprints but “establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, worlds beyond."

The Moon and Mars are two destinations that are also firmly in Elon Musk’s sights; he famously said that he wants to die on the red planet, “just not on impact.” While Musk’s dreams of a Martian colony remain aspirational, he announced in September that SpaceX has agreed to take billionaire fashion entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa and a handful of artists on a several-day trip around the moon—the company just needs to build the technology that will get them there first. The fully reusable “Super Heavy Rocket” and “Starship” spacecraft are due to be completed in 2023 at the earliest, and Maezawa’s fare will defray some of the multibillion development costs.

When companies can get people safely into space—both in partnership with space agencies and independently—the possibilities for exploration and progress are endless, going far beyond shuttles to the I.S.S. and sightseeing voyages to the moon. We’re confident that 2019 will be the year that this giant leap in capability takes place, and the long-awaited era of commercial space travel finally begins.


It’s been seven and a half years since an astronaut was launched into space on an American shuttle or from U.S. soil. During that time, NASA has relied solely on the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, to deliver its crew to the International Space Station—like Anne McClain, who blasted off from Kazakhstan to the ISS on 3rd December, with crew mates from Russia and Canada.

That’s all about to change as commercial companies—SpaceX, Boeing, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic—inch closer to the finish line they’ve been aiming toward for years. The winner will make history as the first privately funded company to launch humans into space, and all signs point to this feat being accomplished in 2019.  

Breakthrough for crewed missions while small launch matures

This time last year, we predicted that 2018 would be the ‘Year of Small Launch,’ and we’ve watched that prediction come true. Rocket Lab has now delivered ten satellites to orbit from the coast of New Zealand with its small Electron rocket. Vector and LandSpace have begun carrying out test flights for their own small launch vehicles, and Virgin Orbit and Firefly look poised to follow suit soon. In the spring of 2018, Ursa Major shipped its first commercial engine targeted at the small-launch market.

This market will continue to grow and mature in 2019, but 2018 was the year that the first major milestone was passed. Looking forward to the year ahead, it’s clear that an equivalent transformation will take place in the realm of commercial space travel.

Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic racing to offer space tourism

For private companies, there are two types of crewed missions. The first is space tourism, and both Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin are racing to start offering suborbital flights, with a short period during which tourists can float in zero gravity. For Blue Origin customers, this means crossing the 62-mile Karman Line that marks the boundary of outer space, while Virgin Galactic passengers will cross the lower 50-mile mark, the point at which NASA crew members receive their astronaut wings.

Blue Origin's Mannequin Skywalker aboard the New Shephard capsule

The spacecraft of both companies have already gone through extensive testing, although only Virgin has flown with crew onboard. Jeff Bezos said in September that he expects to launch a crewed mission in 2019, while Richard Branson told a CNN reporter in November that he is “pretty confident” his test pilots can send Virgin’s SpaceShipTwo into suborbital space by the end of 2018.

Virgin Galactic's third powered test flight on July 26, 2018

“New era” as SpaceX and Boeing prepare to fly NASA crew

As Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin continue their tests, firm plans are in place for Boeing and SpaceX to start shuttling NASA astronauts into orbit, with crews already publicly announced and target launch schedules in place. NASA called this public-private partnership “the beginning of a new era of human spaceflight” and “an unprecedented achievement for the commercial space industry” as the agency forges ahead with its plans to return humans to the Moon and then get them to Mars.

NASA's commercial crew for Boeing and SpaceX

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is scheduled to have its first unpiloted demonstration in January 2019 and, if all goes well, it will launch for the first time with crew onboard in June. Boeing’s own uncrewed and crewed test flights of its CST-100 Starliner, which will be launched using a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, are slated for March and August 2019, respectively. Both companies will launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and the team assigned to their missions are NASA astronauts, with the exception of Boeing’s “corporate astronaut” Chris Ferguson, who previously piloted NASA shuttles and served as a U.S. Navy Captain.

Reliance on Russia to end as US aims for Moon and Mars

NASA has been pursuing a commercial solution for crewed spaceflight ever since it ended its Space Shuttle program in July 2011. Since then, the cost to fly an astronaut to the International Space Station aboard a Roscosmos Soyuz spacecraft has soared, from a low of $21.8m in 2007 to more than $80m in 2016.

Getting to the I.S.S. isn’t the only reason American astronauts want access to space. When the US President signed Space Policy Directive 1 in December 2017, he explained that the policy “will refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery.” The overall aim, he said, was “returning American astronauts to the Moon” where they would not just leave flags and footprints but “establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, worlds beyond."

The Moon and Mars are two destinations that are also firmly in Elon Musk’s sights; he famously said that he wants to die on the red planet, “just not on impact.” While Musk’s dreams of a Martian colony remain aspirational, he announced in September that SpaceX has agreed to take billionaire fashion entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa and a handful of artists on a several-day trip around the moon—the company just needs to build the technology that will get them there first. The fully reusable “Super Heavy Rocket” and “Starship” spacecraft are due to be completed in 2023 at the earliest, and Maezawa’s fare will defray some of the multibillion development costs.

When companies can get people safely into space—both in partnership with space agencies and independently—the possibilities for exploration and progress are endless, going far beyond shuttles to the I.S.S. and sightseeing voyages to the moon. We’re confident that 2019 will be the year that this giant leap in capability takes place, and the long-awaited era of commercial space travel finally begins.


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