Space tourism will be the prime mover in pushing the future advancement of space technology and space access. This is obviously the major market for the operators of small spaceplanes. There are other markets in space, to be sure. There is always the occasional government spacecraft that needs a boost to orbit. There are scientific probes to the planets every year or so. And there are government astronauts traveling to and from space. There is the sounding rocket market. But the largest potential market, by far, is space tourism. This new market will not involve an occasional boost or a yearly probe. Instead, it will be a daily occurrence. With a human population approaching 7 billion, there are large numbers of people among the general population with the wealth to support this market on a continuous basis. It is the space tourist who will fund the future, one ticket at a time.
Fig. 11.2 These space pilots would no doubt feel more comfortable in the cockpit than in the passenger cabin of any spaceplane. From left to right are X-15 pilots Joe Engle (USAF), Robert A. Rushworth (USAF), John B. "Jack" McKay (NASA), William J. "Pete" Knight (USAF), Milton O. Thompson (NASA), and Bill Dana (NASA) (courtesy NASA)
Why should start-up companies focus on the space tourism market, rather than on other revenue streams such as communications satellites or space station supply? Well, the space tourism market is wide open. As long as there are customers waiting in line for the joy ride to space, the market will remain strong. Such lines have already formed, and are growing steadily. Second, the short space-experience flight has the potential to grow into a huge passenger transport industry in the future. The small space tourism company of today, which operates strictly suborbital vehicles, will be the spaceline of the future, transporting passengers between Earth and the Moon. By starting slowly and gaining large amounts of operational experience, such companies are well placed to capture the space passenger markets of tomorrow.
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