The Art of C. Sergent Lindsey
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Climbing a Commercial Stairway to Space:
A Plausible Timeline?
Vers. 2008

by Clark S. Lindsey
February 2, 2008

Genesis II in orbit
Credits: Bigelow Aerospace

As with Genesis I in 2006, the successful orbiting of the Bigelow Aerospace Genesis II prototype habitat module was the most significant event in commercial spaceflight during 2007. (The name
of Mr. Bigelow's granddaughter was embossed on the exterior.)

In the previous Commercial Stairway to Space Timelines for 2007, 2006, 2005, and 2004, I laid out what I considered a realistic set of milestones that would lead to a scenario in which private, commercial activity dominates human spaceflight activity by 2015 or so. As discussed in the review - NewSpace in 2007: Ups and Downs in entrepreneurial spaceflight - the private entrepreneurial space industry had setbacks during 2007 but overall there was considerable progress made up the commercial space stairway.

(Note: I often use just the word spaceflight as shorthand for human spaceflight. So with commercial spaceflight I'm referring to space tourism, Bigelow habitats, and other human related space activities involving private companies and organizations while with the term commercial space I'm adding in all the other commercial activity like communication satellites, remote sensing, GPS, etc.)

Below I begin with a review of what actually happened in 2007 versus my expectations. As in previous years, some predictions came about and others did not. I then give a list of my expectations for the next decade or so.

Hits and Misses

Looking back at the 2004 and subsequent Stairway TimeLines, I find that the biggest surprise has been the progress that Bigelow Aerospace has made. I also greatly underestimated the scale of Mr. Bigelow's ambitions for the company's orbital stations in the 2015-2020 time frame.

SpaceX didn't get the Falcon 1 operational as fast as I expected but, on the otherhand, the Falcon 9/Dragon project has moved along much faster than I thought it would because of the COTS funding. Thus it looks quite likely there will be a NewSpace style orbital transportation service that will start taking passengers to the ISS and Bigelow habitats by 2012 or so.

A consistent miss-prediction, however, involves suborbital vehicles. While I did correctly predict that the X PRIZE would be won, that success was not followed by a series of commercial passenger-capable vehicles as I and many others expected. In fact, a passenger capable vehicle may not fly till 2009.

The reasons for the suborbital vehicle progress shortfall are manifold:

  • The WK2/SS2 involved a one-off, prototype vehicle that could be built and modified relatively quickly. The WK2/SS2 are not only larger, more challenging vehicles, they are intended to be produced on an assembly line that could build 40 or more vehicles according to Burt Rutan. As with concept cars vs production vehicles in the auto industry, going from prototype to mass production of vehicles to sell to customers is a big step in complexity, time, and money.

  • Even so, if Scaled had not experienced the tragic test site explosion in the summer of 2007, they probably would have begun test flights of the SS2 by late 2008 and started commercial flights in 2009.

  • The handful of serious runner-ups in the X PRIZE were not as close to flying as it seemed at the time. Also, they drew back from the "crash" program sort of vehicles they were planning to build to win the prize and instead began following more long term systematic vehicle development. E.g. Armadillo completely dropped its X PRIZE program and began pursuing quite different technologies. It was also was sidetracked somewhat by its Lunar Lander Challenge effort.

  • Except for Blue Origin, funding for the "other guys" generally has been lacking. XCOR, for example, had to put its XERUS on the back burner while it developed engines and other technologies under contracts with DARPA, NASA and the Rocket Racing League.

  • I'll note that my 2004 prediction for "Development of commercial sub-orbitals with 5-6 passenger capacity" in the 2009-2010 looks pretty good. It's as if everyone skipped development of smaller vehicles to go for bigger ones!


Preparing for Big Things

First full Falcon 9 1st stage test firing
Credits: SpaceX
The first fully integrated test firing of the Falcon 9 first stage took place in November 2007
with a single engine. The company plans gradually to work up to firing all 9 engines.
The first Falcon 9 flight could come in late 2008 or early 2009. (Another Monster Update - Dec.10.07.)

Looking back on 2007, I get a sense of the year as one of preparation and infrastructure development. Several rocket companies made significant progress in hardware development even if there was not an outstanding launch or spaceflight success. For example, the second test of the SpaceX Falcon 1 did not get a dummy payload into orbit due to a fuel sloshing problem in the second stage. However, the vehicle did demonstrate very impressive robustness when it flew just one hour after a hot fire abort. For low cost spaceflight ever to be happen, that sort of fuel-up-and-fly operational simplicity must become the norm.

Falcon 9 development moved along well and several other companies such as Armadillo Aerospace, Blue Origin, TGV Rockets, and XCOR made significant hardware progress.

In 2008, I expect that SpaceX will get a Falcon 1 payload into orbit and perhaps even fly the Falcon 9 for the first time. The suborbital companies may not get a passenger-capable vehicle to 100 kilometers in 2008 but they will make big steps towards that goal. Space altitude test flights should become routine in 2009.

Orbital Outfitter spaceflight suit
Orbital Outfitters unveiled its first pressure suit
designed for commercial spaceflight operations.

Development of the infrastructure needed for low cost spaceflight also moved ahead in 2007 and should continue in 2008. For example, Orbital Outfitters unveiled its first pressure suit aimed for the space tourist market. (The company hired the man who won the Space Glove Centennial Challenge this year.) XCOR announced successful development of a LOX/Methane and a N2O-ethane rocket engines. TGV Rockets also began testing a large LOX/JP-8 engine.

The Joy of Space

Rocket Racer at XP Cup
Stephen Hawking is all smiles during the weightless periods
aboard a flight on a ZERO-G aircraft in April 2007.

Another interesting development highlighted in 2007 involves the increasing evidence that spaceflight can be carried out just fine by non-Superhero types. Furthermore, those who have experienced spaceflight are telling the world that it is an amazing and wonderful experience.

ZERO-G, for example, took quadriplegic Stephen Hawking on a parabolic flight in 2007 and he enjoyed the experience of weightlessness so much that he asked for several additional parabolas beyond just the one they had initially planned to do. He hopes to take a SpaceShipTwo ride when it becomes available.

By employing a range of techniques such as providing preflight instructions, starting with a sequence of parabolas of gradually decreasing G forces, and offering the option of a mild medication, ZERO-G has reportedly gotten the fraction of people who suffer motion sickness on their flights down to one out of 20 or less. This is probably not much different than the percentage of of landlubbers who will get seasick during a ride on a sailboat on a moderately windy day.

The NASTAR Center has opened a training program for people who plan to take space tourism trips. Many of the two hundred or so people who have bought tickets on the SpaceShipTwo have taken the NASTAR centrifuge training program that simulates closely the profile of G forces that they will undergo during a flight. So far it appears that all but a very small fraction of potential passengers can easily endure the peak 5 to 6 Gs during SS2 flights. Even people of senior years have done just fine. Only those with serious medical conditions will be prevented from going on such a trip.

Meanwhile, the personal spaceflight participants who traveled to the ISS have returned to deliver an enthusiastic message about their incredible experiences in orbit. Sure, some may have had a bout of spacesickness initially but that passed and they went on to have the greatest times of their lives.

This all bodes well for the space tourism industry. The news will eventually get out that spaceflight is a marvelous experience and this will dispel the common myth that a trip to space is an ordeal meant only to brag about later like climbing Mount Everest. It is in fact something to be enjoyed for its own sake.

[Update Feb.18.08: Jeff Foust reviews the issue of passenger qualification for spaceflights: Screening and training for commercial human spaceflight - The Space Review - Feb.18.08. He includes the following with respect to a presentation given by Julia Tizard, operations leader for Virgin Galactic, at a conference:

“If you were working from scratch and guessing what proportion of the market that you would think be able to manage a spaceflight—in the specific context of a Virgin Galactic spaceflight, whose G forces range up to 6 Gs on reentry—you might guess 50 percent,” she said. “At VG, we’re hoping that 80 percent of the people we had sold tickets to would be able to go through the program.”

The results exceeded even Virgin’s hopes. Of the 70 people tested at NASTAR, 93 percent made it through the test successfully. Of the five who did not, she said, two had their training delayed and one their training curtailed, and only two were unable to continue at all. That group of people, she said, ranges in age from 22 to 88, and with varying medical issues, including heart bypass surgery in the last five years.


Private Spaceflight Grows

As with my previous space stairway prognostications, the point is not to get individual predictions correct. There are far too many ways for a private business venture to fail to rely on any particular one to succeed. Rather, the point is to emphasize the remarkable fact that the private development of sophisticated and ambitious spacefaring capabilities is not only feasible but is now well underway.


Timelines - Old and New

Armadillo Pixel in flight at X Prize Cup 2007
Armadillo Aerospace Mod vehicle in flight at the 2007 X Prize Cup. Engine ignition problems
prevented it from winning the Lunar Lander Challenge though it did fly the full Level 2 flight sequence
during an earlier test in Oklahoma. The vehicle is of the modular design that the company plans to follow
in which they will combine multiple engine/fuel tank modules to obtain higher and higher altitudes during 2008.


This time I posted a separate and much longer general review of the previous year. See NewSpace in 2007: Ups and Downs in entrepreneurial spaceflight . So the first table focuses on the specifics in the predicted 2007 timeline. The second table below lays out an the revised timeline starting from 2008. As always, since lowering the cost of transport from earth to orbit is crucial to all the important goals in space, that category is given the greatest emphasis here. See the 2004 discussion of what could delay or accelerate the scenario laid out here.

The Private Space Development Timeline - Review of 2007
(Compare Timeline - 2007)
Predictions for 2007-2008 January 2008 Status Other Private Space Developments

Access to Space

* SpaceX will carry out two to three launches of the Falcon 1 in 2007.

* SpaceX also will begin Falcon 9 booster static fire tests in early 2007. First launches will occur in 2008. The three COTS demonstration flights should start by late 2008 or early 2009.

* Rocketplane Kistler begins test flights of the K-1 vehicle in 2008.

* Lockheed-Martin will announce plans either to develop the Atlas V for passenger use (see Bigelow study) or to become a close partner with one of the NewSpace companies developing an RLV. One or more of the other major aerospace corporations will follow suit and also partner or buy out a NewSpace firm. Build businesses based on fees for such flights.

Suborbital RLVs:

Mojave Aerospace Ventures (Burt Rutan's firm) will roll out the SpaceShip 2 and White Knight 2 vehicles in late 2007 and begin test flights in 2008. Virgin Galactic will start passenger flights in late 2008 or early 2009.

Rocketplane postponed its first commercial passenger suborbital flight to 2009 due to the effort put into the COTS K-1 project. Test flights should begin in 2008.

is working on the Xerus, which carries one passenger, as funding and time permit. The company has not said much else but I'm guessing it could fly by 2008.

Blue Origin
will fly its unmanned prototypes frequently (couple of times a month at least) to increasing altitudes during this period. The company says it aims for commercial passenger suborbital flights in 2010.

Armadillo Aerospace will continue its build a little - fly a little approach, steadily increasing the capability of its VTOL vehicles. I expect they will reach 100 km before 2009. They are favorites to win both levels of the Lunar Lander Challenge at the 2007 X PRIZE Cup.

Masten-Space Systems will do test flights of its VTOL prototypes in 2007. If they obtain funding, they could have a high altitude vehicle by 2008.

TGV- Rockets has carried out advanced design reviews for its Michelle vehicle. If funding available, they could fly by 2009.

Benson Space says they will begin passenger service with Dream Chaser by 2009. So test flights should begin in 2008.

Suborbital RLVs outside the US:

  • UK
    • Starchaser - Thunderbird development continues towards the goal of passenger flights in 2009.
  • Canada:
    • PlanetSpace - The company has not given a clear picture of its hardware status but has indicated suborbital flights of its Canadian Arrow and/or Silver Dart systems could begin during the 2008-2009 time frame.
    • Da Vinci - Tests of its new XF1 vehicle are supposed to start in 2007.
  • Romania
    • Arca Space - test flights of the full Stabilo vehicle system will begin in 2007.
  • Russia
    • Explorer - this space tourist vehicle, financed and run by a collaboration of Russian and American companies, including Space Adventures, should be flying in the 2008 time frame.
  • South Korea
    • C&Space - its LOX/Methane engine has reached an advanced testing stage. The company has a US partner to design a complete vehicle but no time table has been released.

Other suborbital projects listed here may also obtain funding and fly vehicles by 2008.

The Lunar Lander Challenges (both levels 1 and 2) will be won at the X PRIZE Cup in 2007.

AirLaunch LLC
places a small payload into orbit on the first demo flight of its QuickReach vehicle in 2008.


Access to Space

* SpaceX carried out its second Falcon 1 flight in 2007. The second stage reached space altitude but began to oscillate due to fuel sloshing and a premature engine shutdown prevented it from reaching orbit with a dummy payload. Most other subsystems, however, performed well.

An abort after a brief firing of the first stage engine did not cancel the launch for the day. Instead, the vehicle flew just an hour later after refueling. This demonstration of operational robustness is much more important than the orbital failure from the fuel sloshing, which can be fixed in a straight forward manner.

* The Falcon 9/Dragon development program went well in 2007. Important design reviews were passed and the first test firings of the first stage took place in the fall in Texas.

* Hardware development of the K-1 was proceeding well but the firm's failure to achieve its milestone for raising $500M in private investment led to the termination of its COTS agreement with NASA.

* There was no announcement of the results of the Bigelow/LM study. LM did support some of the teams submitting proposals to the second round of COTS.

Northrop-Grumman bought the other 50% of Scaled Composites that it did not own. However, this probably had more to do with Scaled's general technology capabilities than its space projects.

Suborbital projects

The accident brought propulsion development to a halt. WK2 work, though, was accelerated. Passenger flight could begin late 2009 but more likely to be in mid to late 2010.

Serious problems arose with the previous Learjet based design. In fall 2007 they announced a totally new design based on their own airframe. They are looking for funding.

XCOR got SBIR Air Force funding for a mid-altitude (200k feet) vehicle design. The engine for this and the XERUS will be derived from the engine used for the Rocket Racer, which began test flights in late 2007. Probably no high altitude flights till 2009.

Blue flew at least one untethered flight of the Goddard in 2007. They began construction of a new vehicle. Seem to be on track for 2010 but the company is very secretive.

Armadillo made significant progress with its vehicles but suffered a big disappointment when it failed to win either level of the Lunar Lander Challenge at the XP Cup. Development of a modular design sets the company on a course to high altitude flights in 2008.

Tested their first VTOL vehicle in 2007 but it was not ready in time to compete in the LLC at the XP Cup. Now building their second prototype.

Began testing a large LOX/JP-8 engine. No word on vehicle development progress.

Switched to a new design. No news on development progress.

Outside US:

  • StarChaser continued development of their engine. Expects to begin test flights in 2009

  • PlanetSpace has not released info lately on the status of its suborbital projects. Currently focused on its COTS proposal in collaboration with Lockheed Martin and ATK.

  • The DA Vinci project seems to have faded away.

  • ARCA Space carried out tests of its balloon launch STABILO system. Expects to test the rocket portion of the system in 2008.

  • No info on the Explorer project.

  • Engine tests continued. No word on development of an air frame for it..

Armadillo was the only competitor in 2007 despite the fact that 9 teams registered for it. An engine ignition problem prevented Armadillo from winning. They had carried out the complete Level 2 sequence in tests in Oklahoma.

AirLaunch won continued funding but a demo flight isn't expected before 2010.

Other Developments

Bigelow Aerospace will launch the second Genesis prototype space habitat module in early 2007. If that is a success, the company has indicated that it will lay out a more detailed development plan and schedule for its next generation of space habitats.

  • The Genesis II launch in June was a success. The company announced it will skip the intermediate Galaxy module and instead go straight to launch of the 3-crew capable Sundancer in 2010. Then the first 6 person BA-330 around 2012.

Bigelow Aerospace will announce by the end of 2008 that it has a contract with at least one country, and probably several, for the rental of space and time on on of the company's space habitats in the 2010-2015 time frame. These will be countries with no previous human spaceflight programs. Transportation arrangements for taking these astronauts to the habitats will be made with commercial space transport companies.

  • No announcements made by Bigelow about contracts with other countries or companies. Bigelow is still trying to find suitable transport services for access to its orbital habitats.

By the end of 2007, I expect that the total number of people who have placed deposits or paid the full amount for tickets to fly on suborbital tourist vehicles will be in the 500 to 1000 range.

  • Counting Virgin Galactic, Space Adventures, and Rockeplane there are still somewhere in the 300-400 for the number of people who have put down deposits for suborbital flights.

Test flights of suborbital spaceflight vehicles will become a common occurrence during 2008.

  • With the delay in the SS2 project and others, it doesn't look probable at this point that any of the suborbital companies will be reaching space altitudes this year. Blue Origin, Armadillo and some others may reach high altitudes (~200k feet) in 2008.

I expect the first paid passenger flight to 100km will take place by late 2008 or early 2009.

  • Late 2009 looks like the earliest for passenger flights.

In 2008 around a hundred thousand people will attend the annual X PRIZE Cup to observe the rocket competitions, exhibitions, and the Rocket Racing League event.

  • About 85 thousand people attended the combination air show and X PRIZE Cup event in 2007. Not clear how the 2008 event will be organized. Possible that if the Rocket Racing League can put on at least an exhibition, the event could draw large crowds.

The Rocket Racing League will begin demonstration events in 2007 and will increase the number of racing teams to 5 or 6 from the current three. The racing circuit will be in full swing in 2008. They will obtain a major sponsor similar to Red Bull's sponsorship of air racing.

  • In the fall of 2007 the RRL announced the addition of three more teams for a total of 6. This allows it to start exhibition events in 2008 if TV deals are finalized in time. Full racing circuit would start in 2009.

Space Adventures continues to fly one space tourist to the ISS each year, restricted by the availability of only one seat per year on the Soyuz flights.

  • Charles Simonyi flew in 2007 and Richard Garriott began training for his 2008 flight. A backup paid $3M to train with him.

    More people are in the queue than seats available. The expansion of the ISS to 6 people means it will be difficult for SA to obtain seats for its customers after 2008.

Flying small payloads consisting of science experiments, student projects, memorabilia, etc. on very low cost suborbital rockets will become increasingly popular. The refurbishable sounding rocket type of vehicles from companies like UP Aerospace and Beyond-Earth Enterprises will dominate until unmanned RLVs with controlled landings such as the XA-1.0 from Masten Space Systems begin to fly. The sounding rocket guys will respond by going to much higher altitudes.

  • UP Aerospace had a successful suborbital flight in the spring of 2007 carrying a diverse assortment of commercial payloads. In December it flew a low altitude flight for a commercial customer. B-E and Masten continued development of new vehicles.

More support services and products for space tourism and NewSpace activities begin to appear. For example, training facilities for pilots and support staff for space tourist vehicles will begin to open.

  • The NASTAR Center began providing training for Virgin Galactic ticket holders. Orbital Outfitters unveiled its first spacesuit for commercial operators.

ZERO-G starts to operate in several cities and also finally gets a contract with NASA to provide flights to carry out astronaut training, microgravity research, etc.

  • ZERO-G began operating out of Las Vegas in addition to its KSC operation. The contract with NASA was approved at the start of 2008.

XCOR LOX/Methane engine test
American Express ad in Popular Science - Feb.08. (The test actually
took place elsewhere and was photoshopped in front of the hangar.)

In late 2007, XCOR began testing the first X-Racer vehicle, which will be the standard
vehicle for all of the Rocket Racing League teams. The vehicle is powered by a LOX/Kerosene
built by the company. The engine also uses a piston fuel pump developed by XCOR.
The company plans to use this engine and its derivatives for its own high altitude and space
vehicles. As shown here by the close proximity of people during the firings, the engine is
very reliable and safe.


The Private Space Development Timeline - Vers. 2008


Access to Space Other Private Space Developments

SpaceX will carry out the first test flight of the Falcon 9/Dragon system in late 2008 or early 2009. It will then complete by 2010 the three demonstration flights required under the COTs Phase 1 agreement.

Falcon 1 will successfully carry out its first operational flight in the spring of 2008 and take several other payloads to space by the end of 2009.

In late 2008 SpaceX will win a ISS resupply contract starting in 2010.

The winner of the second round COTS agreements will involve a team with one of the major aerospace companies supplying the vehicle. They will fly for the first time in early 2009.

The new administration in 2009 will make major changes to NASA's exploration architecture. The Ares V will be canceled and Ares 1/Orion might be as well, though there will be big political fight over this. If the Falcon 9 flights are successful, this will undercut support for Ares 1.

Besides Virgin Galactic/Scaled with the SpaceShipTwo, there will be at least two other companies test flying vehicles to 100 km by the summer of 2009. I expect Blue Origin and XCOR to be among these companies.

In the first year of operation, starting late 2009 or early 2010, Virgin Galactic and other suborbital space tourist companies will take in ~$30M to $50M in revenue by flying a few hundred space tourists. There will be steady growth in revenue and the number of passengers in subsequent years.

Other suborbital markets such as science and educational payloads and high altitude photography will also grow.

EADS begins development of its rocketplane by 2009. At least one of the other large mainstream aerospace companies announces plans to develop a low cost space transport system to go after space tourism, and the Bigelow habitats markets.

There will be winners in both the Lunar Lander and Beamed Power Centennial Challenges in 2008.

The V-Prize competition for point-to-point spaceflight demonstration between Virginia and Europe opens in 2009 with a four year time limit.

At least one, maybe two, Google Lunar X Prize competitors will make an attempt to land a rover on the Moon in July 2009 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing. The prize will be won by either one of these teams or by another before the contest deadline in 2012.

The German led AMSAT P5A mission will send a spacecraft in orbit around Mars in 2009. (See also

Bigelow announces agreements in 2008 with at least one company to provide a set of flights to the company's space habitats starting in the 2010-2011 time frame.

Celestis/Space Services space burial service expands its business significantly as more commercial flights become available to it.

Rocket Racing League begins exhibitions in 2008 and starts the racing circuit in late 2008 or early 2009.

Orbital Outfitters completes development of its first generation of spacesuits for commercial spaceflight operations and begins to sell/lease them to the companies.

The development of commercial spaceports in New Mexico, Virginia and Sweden get well underway by 2009.




In late 2010, the Falcon 9/Dragon makes its first cargo flight to the ISS. Crew operations begin by late 2011.

Bigelow begins design work on an earth orbit to lunar transport vehicle - the Nautilus Moon Cruiser - based on its inflatable structures technology.

First flight of the Air Launch LLC low cost Quickreach vehicle in 2010. A version of the vehicle is developed to fly with the White Knight Two for delivering small payloads to orbit.

One or more of the suborbital RLV developers will start launching small expendable second stages to take small payloads to orbit by late 2010.

By 2010 Armadillo gets a small payload to space using its modular vehicle system.

In 2010 Bigelow Aerospace launches the Sundancer space habitat, which can hold a crew of three.

Orbital Satellite Services launches the first comsat rescue mission in 2010.

A 3 person crew is delivered to the Bigelow Sundancer module by the end of 2011 by SpaceX.

Inspired by the success of the commercial space companies and the falling price of access to LEO, several wealthy associations and private organizations of diverse ideologies and philosophies come into being with the goal of building a large scale habitat in orbit or on the Moon with hundreds of residents by 2025.

A private firm lands a rover on one of the lunar poles and begins exploration for ice deposits and sells access to real-time video to on line users.


One or more of the suborbital RLV developers such as Blue Origin successfully launches a fully reusable two-stage system capable of taking a crew of two and/or a small payload to orbit. The time and effort involved in the return and preparation for the next flight approach that of "refuel-and-fly" operations for airliners.

A wealthy country without a space program of its own, announces plans to use the CSI Lunar Express method to fly two of its citizens around the Moon by 2015.

US Air Force announces plans to discontinue use of the EELVs (Delta IV and Atlas V) in favor of much lower cost commercial space transport services from companies like SpaceX.

The V-Prize is won by 2013.

The large Bigelow BA-330 module is delivered to orbit. Bigelow begins to rent out time and module space to various countries that have formed new human spaceflight programs. Astronauts from these countries are delivered to the Bigelow modules via commercial space transport.

NASA finally agrees to the first pure data purchase contract for a science mission. This will involve a company like SpaceDev, that builds and flies a spacecraft on its own to carry out a science mission such as prospecting a near earth asteroid. NASA will simply pay for the data returned and will have no involvement with the details of the spacecraft or how the mission is carried out.


By 2015, Bigelow has 3 complexes in orbit, each consisting of at least two of the big BA-330 modules. Long term contracts with one, possibly two, launch companies, provides for a flight with crew, passengers, and cargo to each station at least once a month.

Orbital tourism expands significantly when trips to the Bigelow Aerospace space hotel become available via commercial services that offer transport ticket prices in the $2M-$4M range.

Several thousand people per year are flying on suborbital spaceflights. Prices have dropped to a few tens of thousand of dollars range.

Suborbital spaceflight systems will have achieved a reputation as highly reliable and safe.

A private company establishes an orbiting fuel depot adjacent to a Bigelow space habitat. Cargo flights from earth bring fuel to the depot, which in turn supplies fuel to various orbiting spacecraft and Earth-to-Moon transports. A crew maintains the depot and monitors propellant transfers. The site becomes essentially the first commercial space settlement.

A private consortium funds construction of a Nautilus Moon Cruiser for a lunar fly-around service.

A private group also announces plans to pursue a private human mission to the surface of the Moon.

The Bigelow module complexes begin to form the nuclei of genuine long term space settlements.

Increasing amounts of material shielding (e.g. via water and fuel tanks plus surplus equipment) provide sufficient radiation protection for safe, long term residence.

Although the early habitats will probably not rotate to provide spin gravity, centrifuge systems (like the circular track in the 2001 Discovery vehicle) allows for extended exercise at a high fraction of a G to prevent microgravity health problems.

An "in-space" economy begins to develop as people pursue specialized jobs such as repair services, retail sales, and food production from greenhouse gardening (as in the successful Antarctic base model).

Individuals involved in the production of high value, "zero-mass" products, such as software and financial analysis, that can be sold back to earth begin to live and work on the complexes and eventually start to call them home.

Some non-zero mass products made on the private space stations, such as exotic glass and metallic artworks, begin selling on earth.

Google Lunar X Prize



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