Posting in Aerospace
There's a market for everything -- including commercial travel well past the 35,000-foot level. A vast new business frontier is about to open up above us.
They say there's a market for everything.
And commercial aviation is certainly one of the largest and most exciting markets. My colleagues here at SmartPlanet, Larry Dignan and John Dodge, have just posted details on American Airlines' next-generation passenger information system, and the next generation of aircraft -- Dreamliners -- people will fly in. Plus, John has been providing us the latest scoops on Dave Carroll's incredibly popular social media response to United Airlines' mishandling of his guitar, and the airlines' ensuing refusal to own up to the damage.
But perhaps its time to set our sites above the 35,000-foot level, and start recognizing that a vast new frontier of commercial travel is about to open up above us.
According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, referenced in The Business Insider, the Obama administration wants the private sector to pick up the slack for our cash-strapped space agency.
"Contract winners would use corporate funds to build and test rockets, provide compatible space capsules and then try to recoup those investments by offering commercial-style transportation services to the agency. Essentially, NASA would be paying a set fee for every pound or person transported to orbit."
And the private sector is now ready and willing. Makes sense. Why should the government have all the fun? Companies ready to start space travel include Space Exploration Technologies Corp (SpaceX), Virgin Galactic, United Launch Alliance (a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin), Alliant Techsystems Inc., Orbital Sciences, EADS Astrium, XCOR Aerospace, Rocketplane Limited, Space Adventures, Blue Origin, and Armadillo Aerospace.
These companies all are worth watching, and Virgin Galactic -- which has adopted Burt Rutan's successful SpaceShipOne model, winner of the Ansari X Prize for achieving suborbital flight -- says it will begin active test flights of the WS-Eve mothership, with SpaceShipTwo attached, at the end of this year.
The initial ticket prices for commercial suborbital flights average about $200,000. So it can be assumed that passengers will receive premium customer service, and guitar cases will be handled with the utmost care. But as prices drop, passenger volume increases, and space travel becomes an everyday thing -- with TSA screenings, baggage checks, flight delays, and lost or damaged luggage -- will the commercial space travel industry have learned the lessons of the below-the-stratosphere airline industry?
Aug 27, 2009
I think this is one of the few times imo when privatization is a really good idea. Whether we think it?s necessary or not, we need to continue to develop new forms of space travel and technology to facilitate it. What the ppl whose only argument is ?we have too many problems down here to be worrying about this,? they fail to understand the two most important implications of aeronautical research. The first is for national defense? it?s bad enough that nasa has to rely on Russia to ferry them to the ISS. If we keep going at this rate, our disadvantage will only grow as they continue to develop new technologies in their space program while we pump the brakes on ours. Is air and space superiority something you really want the Russians to have? It doesn?t seem like a good idea for any one country to have, let alone one whom we have a sketchy history with. The second is that with aeronautical research comes a flood of new technologies, most of which are very applicable to us down on earth. For example, if it wasn?t for nasa, we wouldn?t have the chips that we use for non-invasive biopsies, solar energy, and a whole litany of other things (http://www.thespaceplace.com/nasa/spinoffs.html#Top has a good number of inventions that most of us don?t know came from our space program). And if you?re one of those ppl that are so skeptical (or cynical imo) that you still don?t think that any of the things on this list warrant a larger investment in a privatized space industry, just remember that while you sleep at night, you most likely have nasa to thank for that, too. If you use any type of home security system, chances are they use infrared and laser technology that came out of nasa?s research (just look at the adt home security infrared camera page. They even admit that the technology came from nasa!)