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One of my dreams is to go into space. I believe that humanity is headed in such a direction that before I die (in the next 60-80 years) I should be able to pay for a ticket into orbit, or even to the moon. I'd like more data on this, to back it up. However, "How close are we to commercial space flights on the regular" is extremely vague.

So, I'll try and be specific.

How many companies are actively pursuing commercial manned space flight? In-depth answers are appreciated.

Here is a question related to creating industry in space, like mining.

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    $\begingroup$ From the context, is it right to assume that you mean only commercial passenger space flight? There are some companies looking to space for more industrial purposes, like Deep Space Industries or Planetary Resources. $\endgroup$ – Mark Bailey Feb 5 '15 at 23:11
  • $\begingroup$ To keep it specific, yes. But I do appreciate any and all information, I just want to comply with the rules of the site and try to keep to one idea, for anyone who might search in the future $\endgroup$ – Premier Bromanov Feb 6 '15 at 5:37
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    $\begingroup$ Here's Wikipedia's List of private spaceflight companies. Note that even that page isn't kept updated since November 2010 despite Wikipedia having by far larger number of active editors than we do. Since this is a list type question, and it will have to constantly change in time not to go stale, I'm converting this into a community wiki post so nearly anyone can edit its answers. Also note that maintaining such lists takes substantial effort of the community. Please avoid asking them and follow our How to Ask guidelines. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – TildalWave Feb 7 '15 at 9:57
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Roscosmos

The Russians right now, will sell you a flight on a Soyuz, and you will fly, in the next few years if you have the money. Oddly the former Communists are most capitalistic about this endeavour. They are the only actual space tourist option that has actually flown real tourists to space. Once the Shuttle was retired, Soyuz missions became the only option for crew rotation, so all three seats were needed for long duration ISS crew members, and the spare middle seat was no longer available. That will change as a two person team will aim for a 1 year mission, meaning that for at least two or three crew rotations, a spare seat will be available again.

Boeing/Lockheed Martin

These are the big boys in US space. They are the incumbents. They build Orion, SLS, CST-100, Atlas V, Delta 4. They clearly are interested in space if NASA or the government will pay them to do the work. But it won't be cheap.

In terms of real hardware, they have two different active boosters (Atlas V and Delta 4 families), working on a third (SLS), working on two capsules (Orion, CST-100).

Space Exploration Technologies

SpaceX is probably the closest to actually being able to sell something.

They have a booster (Falcon 9) that is for sale commercially with a backlog of 40-50 flights booked (Depending how you count).

They have an operational cargo vehicle fulfilling a contract for cargo to the ISS. (Dragon).

They have a contract with NASA to build a manned version of Dragon (Dragon V2). Bigelow has been touted as a secondary customer for Dragon V2.

Bigelow Aerospace

Bigelow has demonstrated two scale models in orbit (Genesis I and Genesis II) of their inflatable habitats. They have been hampered by the lack of vehicle to bring crew/cargo to an operational station at a price that can be afforded by their customers. No point in launching a habitat that is unreachable.

Bigelow has said they will use whoever offers services, (Boeing CST-100 on a Lockheed Martin Atlas V, or SpaceX Dragon V2 on a Falcon 9 or anyone else who comes along (probably SNC's best hope)).

In terms of commercial space access, if you mean orbital, then a SpaceX Dragon to a Bigelow habitat is your best bet. Still not cheap, but enough for sovereign country customers to afford.

Virgin Galactic

Virgin is working on a suborbital tourist vehicle (SpaceShip 2)at a price point that is potentially affordable to some. But only suborbital, which technically counts as space, but we all know that orbit is where it is at.

Blue Origin

Who the heck knows what they are doing at the moment, they are not talking. They have a capsule (Biconic design) and a booster design that when complete will allow them to do manned missions, but no clear evidence in sight.

However they have funding from a billionaire, so they may succeed if the money does not run out.

Sierra Nevada Corp (SNC)

SNC lost on the CCtCAP contract with NASA (Boeing and SpaceX won), and now must try and find funding to complete the project if possible. If so, they would be able to offer orbital missions, launching on an Atlas V booster. Bigelow is probably their best hope. If they can be assured of launches, they can probably get funding to complete. (NASA suffices as the market/funder for Dragon/CST-100 in this example)

Orbital Sciences Corp

Orbital launched 3 Cygnus unmanned cargo capsules to the ISS on their Antares booster. But they had a bad launch failure and are in recovery mode now. One or two next launches on Atlas V, before they can transition to a new engine (pair of RD-181s, aka export version of RD-193 used on Angara). They will likely compete and may win the next commercial cargo contract (since NASA wants 2 and SpaceX is pretty much a lock for one slot).

They do not have any real world manned flight plans. (They may have internal designs, but nothing beyond paper studies). They also have to recover from the booster loss, and transition to new engines and get back on track for cargo delivery.

National Programs

India seems to be slowly considered manned flight. But it won't be commercial.

Russia may replace the Soyuz booster one day with Angara, and maybe a new crew design, but that is many years down the road.

China has a manned program, but it is not commercial at all.

Everyone else

Lots of little guys, but none seem very realistic. These are the big ones. If you find a big one I missed, edit it in please.

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  • $\begingroup$ Good list. I'd add orbital.com. $\endgroup$ – Erik Feb 5 '15 at 18:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Erik Will do, but they have no manned vehicles, nor real plans. $\endgroup$ – geoffc Feb 5 '15 at 18:54
  • $\begingroup$ I didn't think the question was limited to manned launch vehicles. Orbital has Cygnus which, like Bigelow's stuff, is habitable on orbit. $\endgroup$ – Erik Feb 5 '15 at 19:10
  • $\begingroup$ A couple of other companies making small, non-manned vehicles are Firefly Space Systems and Rocketlab. Firefly just started last year and hasn't built anything that can launch, but it looks like Rocketlab built a small vehicle. Both are targeting small satellite launches, and both are planning on using carbon composite vehicles. $\endgroup$ – user3.14159265359 Feb 5 '15 at 21:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Erik For the purposes of keeping things organized, I'd prefer the answers be specific to commercial manned flights. I'd honestly LOVE any info of any company doing stuff in space, but that's rather vague. The title I've chosen is about commercial manned flights and future users of this site may be searching for just that. It'd be best not to give them irrelevant information, I think. Perhaps I (or you can) will ask a question more specific to non-manned endeavors, perhaps about mining or orbital vehicles $\endgroup$ – Premier Bromanov Feb 5 '15 at 21:58

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