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Commercial Space Flight

Manned space flight changed forever on 21 June 2004.

On that date, Mike Melvill, chief test pilot for Scaled Composites of Mojave, California, earned his astronaut wings flying the first private (non-government sponsored) spacecraft to an altitude of 100 km (62 miles).

The Ansari X-Prize competition ended on 4 October 2004 when Scaled Composites completed the second of two X-Prize flights. The first flight occurred 29 September 2004.

The Da Vinci Project project, which had been the closest competing team, had scheduled its first flight for 2 October 2004. This flight has been indefinitely postponed.

Since the conclusion of the original X-Prize, a number of companies are pursuing tourist space flight. Information will appear on these pages as it develops.

In the space tourism market, one of the top two contenders is Virgin Galactic. This company will be working out of Spaceport America, approximately 55 miles north of Las Cruces, New Mexico. Their craft are being built by X-Prize winner Scaled Composites, Inc., and consist of WhiteKnightTwo motherships and SpaceShipTwo spacecraft.  The first of two motherships, VMS Eve is undergoing testing. The second, VMS Spirit of Steve Fossett is under construction at Scaled. The first of five spacecraft, VSS Enterprise, was destroyed while undergoing testing. A second, VSS Unity (formerly Voyager), is now undergoing tests and just recently reached 82.7 km in altitude. Commercial operations, following many postponements, are currently forecast for 2019.

Blue Origin is another strong contender for the commercial space tourism market. The were initially on of the C3PO contenders, but eventually lost out as NASA narrowed the field. That hasn't stopped the company from continuing to pursue space markets on their own.

Space Expedition Curacao has partnered with KLM and may be in a good position to lend competition. They are advertising rates much lower than others. They do appear to be about two years behind Virgin Galactic.


The shortfall in ISS logistics needs after the Shuttle retirement provided a significant opportunity for commercial space transportation services. To stimulate the commercial space transportation industry’s ability to fulfill these needs, NASA established the Commercial Crew & Cargo Program Office.

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Last updated: 27 October 2023 15:19:48.

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