A teardrop-shaped space capsule headed towards the International Space Station almost a decade ago and arrived on the 25th day of May 2012. The capsule-shaped space shuttle was packed with Cargo and various other supplies for the crew living aboard – ISS.
The same shuttle came back to the surface of the Earth safe and sound, but when it again headed for resupplying goods at the ISS, the mission was not astounding like before. Even though the mission did not become remarkable, the space capsule was unique and one of a kind. This cargo capsule was owned by one of the leading commercial spaceflight companies – SpaceX, and the capsule was named Dragon.
In recent years, space tourism, including private flights to space, has become immensely popular as many commercial spaceflight companies emerge and exist. Today, in this article, we will discuss the major players in the industry of commercial spaceflight and their contributions to space tourism. But first, let us take a closer look at what space tourism is all about. Let’s get starded.
Space Tourism: whats is it?
Space tourism, which encompasses private flights to space, encompasses the leisurely pursuit of venturing into outer space. This endeavor is also known by various terms such as personal spaceflight, citizen space exploration, and commercial human spaceflight. Within the realm of space tourism, individuals have the opportunity to embark on space flights that extend beyond Earth’s orbit, including both orbital and sub-orbital journeys.
Space tourism has gained popularity in recent years after commercial spaceflight companies made it easier for tourists to travel to space for recreational purposes. The leading companies like Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, Bigelow Aerospace, Orion Span, Boeing, etc., are setting milestones by delivering next-level commercial spaceflight for a better future, today and tomorrow.
Space Tourism: a historical sketch
Space tourism, including private flights to space, represents a groundbreaking concept that has achieved remarkable milestones and left a significant mark in history. This form of tourism first emerged in the early 2000s when the Russian Space Agency successfully launched seven tourists into space, becoming the sole facilitator of flourishing space tourism at that time. However, the agency eventually ceased its tourism operations in 2010. Subsequently, numerous private commercial spaceflight companies emerged, swiftly venturing into the realm of space tourism on a global scale.
Commercial Spaceflight Companies: the major players
With every passing day, space tourism is gaining immense popularity and flourishing extensively. And the number of businesses that are associated with various activities within the space tourism industry is also inflating. If you are someone who has dreamt of traveling to outer space for quite a long time, then this is the best opportunity for you.
So now, we will be taking a closer look at the leading commercial spaceflight companies that will offer you the best chance to make your dream a successful one.
The commercial spaceflight company was founded in the year 1999, in February. Since he wanted to continue working on the expandable habitats, he ensured that the company was established. The only motive of Bigelow Aerospace was to build low-cost and safe commercial space platforms for space tourism to the moon, low Earth orbit, and further beyond.
Bigelow Aerospace – a timeline sketch
Soon after the Henry Fords of the new space age became competent to construct a spaceship, Robert T. Bigelow also planned to build an inflatable space station, which is privately owned and operated – he also planned on adding a space for passengers where they can hang their helmets.
NASA hovered over the same idea of inflatable spaceships for many years. These space shuttles are excellent as it occupies a limited cargo space – it packs a sturdy habitat within a dainty package. However, the idea of billowing bungalows has been transpired from TransHab, another significant space agency.
TransHab also came about with an idea of an inflatable and sturdy habitat for applications on the moon, Mars, and other planets. Even though the technologies were all set, the programming got canceled because there were insufficient funds to proceed.
Bigelow has successfully placed various crewless stations across the orbit of the Earth and further planned to park another large capsule that can house a dozen people. The company began developing its headquarters in 2001, and currently, it spreads across 50 acres of land in North Las Vegas, Nevada.
Bigelow Aerospace – licensed background
One of the efficient commercial spaceflight companies, Bigelow Aerospace, secured its legal license for NASA’s unique expandable or inflatable technology around September 2003. The company purchased the permit license for building the inflatable space habitat using expandable technology. With this efficient technology, Bigelow Aerospace has made it possible for the initiation of space tourism as well as the diversification of it.
Bigelow Aerospace – spacecraft launches
The first launch by the commercial company was Genesis I, which took place in July 2006. The first launch for Bigelow Aerospace in Russia was from the ISC Kosmotras Space and Missile Complex. This launch gained complete success, thereby validating the first-ever inflatable spacecraft’s expansion, pressurization, and secure operation.
Genesis II was the second successful launch of the company in June 2007. As both the consecutive launches gained immense success, Bigelow Aerospace began working on the human-rated habitats that could house a dozen people together.
After quite a long time, when both Bigelow Aerospace and SpaceX gained immense popularity, BEAM or the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module reached the International Space Station as the first expandable module. And further, NASA granted an extended time for the BEAM on the ISS. It currently \\holds as much as 1000 pounds of Cargo and various other things.
Tech billionaire Elon Musk came up with the idea of building SpaceX as his sole mission was to take regular people to Mars and make a living on the planet. Elon Musk’s rocket empire SpaceX has gained massive popularity, and with space tourism, he has become one of the most successful and the richest man to live on Earth. For nearly two decades, SpaceX has accomplished great milestones and successfully boarded astronauts of NASA and took them to orbit.
SpaceX – spacecraft launches
The first-ever launch of SpaceX – SpaceX Falcon 1 – took place on the 28th day of September 2008. This successful launch paved the way for Musk’s next spacecraft Falcon 9. The two-stage orbital rocket did various successful works like launching satellites for various private companies and the government, sending the US Air Force’s “super-secret space plane” for various bizarre missions to outer space. The Falcon 9 has flown approximately 80 times and beyond.
In 2018, SpaceX launched the final version of Falcon 9 – Block 5 Falcon 9 rocket, which one can continuously use up to 100 times with periodical refurbishments. In 2012, SpaceX’s Dragon carried Cargo to the ISS, but in May 2020, Crew Dragon became the first commercial spaceship to send astronauts to the ISS.
SpaceX – space tourism
In 2017, Elon Musk announced that he would be sending two clients on space tourism around the moon for an inaugural lunar tourism mission. However, the lunar trip has been delayed for unknown reasons, and the company has still not revealed anything about the trip.
This space tourism company is a part of the Virgin Group, which regularly provides suborbital space flights for paying customers. To bring regular commercial space flights into closer proximity, VSS Unity was sent to outer space in the year 2018 for undergoing a testing procedure.
Many aspiring space tourists are waiting to be granted space tourism with a successful company. It has been reported that those waiting to tour the space have already deposited an amount of £200,000.
To conclude our closer look at leading companies offering private flights to space
Private flights to space have become a rapidly expanding segment within the space industry, with space tourism spreading its wings remarkably. This innovative program has simplified and made it possible for individuals who have a keen interest in visiting outer space to fulfill their dreams. Major commercial spaceflight companies are now extensively providing space tourism opportunities worldwide.