Now that the space shuttle program is retired, who do we get into outer space? California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. is trying to make it easier. At the end of 2012, he signed legislation to bolster the commercial space flight sector in California.
In a statement made by Governor Brown, he said, “California aerospace pioneers like Virgin Galactic, SpaceX (News - Alert) and the Spaceship Company are blazing a path to the stars with commercial space travel. This bill allows commercial space-travel companies to innovate and explore without the worry of excessive liability.”
A summary overview of Assembly Bill 2243 shows that it provides qualified immunity from liability to a spaceflight entity for injuries to a space flight participant. As long as a written warning statement is provided to the participant and the injury was not the result of spaceflight entity's gross negligence or intentional acts.
SpaceX is the only private company to have flown a spacecraft in low Earth orbit and have it land safely back on Earth back in 2010. Its newer version, Dragon spacecraft, was attached to the International Space Station (ISS) in May 2012 and also successfully landed back on Earth. There have been three missions and so far these have all been unmanned.
SpaceX is developing a seven person Dragon 2 capsule. They are competing for NASA’s ISS crew transportation contract. Ed Mango who is the Commercial Crew Program Manager at NASA said, “2013 will be a huge year for us. In the first couple of months we’ll kick off work for our certification contract and we’ll award that shortly.” The contract will not be awarded until 2014.
There is a $10 million package that goes with the contract. Companies that are selected for the certification contract will have 15 months to demonstrate, with data, that their rockets and space crafts can be considered for the space station transport mission. Mango said, “The contract winners are not just making spacecraft and launch vehicles they are also doing it to meet a NASA mission, our mission to the ISS.”
There are three companies that are the top contenders, Boeing (News - Alert), SpaceX and Sierra Nevada Corporation. These are contracts are for orbiting space crafts, there are also going to be suborbital space planes. They will be designed to launch beyond the Earth’s atmosphere, but not to enter orbit around the planet.
XCOR is building the Lynx I. It is their prototype for their Lynx Mark 2, while Virgin Galactic will have the SpaceShipTwo. Both will be designed for commercial human space flight. They are aiming for operational missions sometime around 2015.
2013 is the year that these and many other companies will spend a lot of time and resources developing, testing and perfecting commercial space travel planes. They are on the horizon. Save all of your money because none of these flights will be cheap.
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Edited by Brooke Neuman