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The post-X Prize hangover

Published by Robin on Wed May 11, 2005 9:22 pm
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While the attention surrounding the Ansari X Prize and SpaceShipOne has died down, many companies are ramping up their efforts to develop their own commercial suborbital vehicles. Jeff Foust offers an update in the first of a two-part report from the recent Space Access conference.
The Space Review Monday, May 9, 2005

The year 2004 has all the earmarks of a milestone year for the entrepreneurial space industry. There were the successful suborbital spaceflights of SpaceShipOne, the final two of which allowed it to capture the $10-million Ansari X Prize. Those flights, in turn, attracted considerable public attention, raising awareness of these new ventures and the concept of personal spaceflight (or whatever alternate moniker one wants to attach to space tourism) in general. In Washington, some of the regulatory hurdles for the industry were removed with the passage of the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act in the final hours of the 108th Congress. Meanwhile, a number of other companies quietly made progress, lining up funding and contracts while designing and testing (and occasionally crashing) vehicles.

However, whether 2004 stands out in the long term as a turning point for space commercialization remains an open question. Will the events of last year be seen as the first visible sign of an emerging profitable industry, or simply an aberration? The answer will depend on the progress that the key players in the field will make over the next few years, starting now. At the recent Space Access ’05 conference in Phoenix—an annual gathering of much of the so-called “alt.space” community—many of the companies that are developing suborbital and orbital vehicles, and related technologies, impressed upon attendees that they are indeed making progress on the vehicles they hope will open space to a wider audience.

Complete report at http://www.thespacereview.com/article/371/1

Next week in The Space Review: Part 2 will examine how, despite the passage of the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act last year, companies are looking for legislative and regulatory tweaks, as well as ways to build a broad industry consensus on key issues.

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