As NASA celebrates the 50th anniversary of the launch of the first American into space this week, another organization is looking ahead to the day when ordinary citizens can orbit the globe-or moon--with plans for a modified Russian Soyuz TMA spaceship for commercial space flights. Space Adventures, the only company that has provided human space missions to the global marketplace, outlined its forecast for commercial orbital spaceflight and announced details of how additional living space would be made available during the company's planned circumlunar mission.
As part of a market sizing exercise for NASA's Commercial Crew Development bid, submitted on behalf of the Boeing Company, Space Adventures estimated that by 2020 approximately 140 more private individuals will have launched to orbital space, with participants that would include private individuals, corporate, university and non-profit researchers, lottery winners and journalists. Destinations would include the ISS (International Space Station), commercial space stations and orbital free-flys.
"As we celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Dennis Tito's pioneering orbital spaceflight, and the seven other private spaceflight missions that have launched since, we need to stay focused on the future. As always, I remain optimistic; but, there will only be a robust market when there is more than one commercial launch provider and more than one destination for private missions in low-Earth orbit," said Eric Anderson, chairman of Space Adventures. "We must credit Dennis Tito for helping to create the business model for space tourism. If it were not for him, the commercial spaceflight industry would not have progressed as far as it has to date."
In working toward the goal of extending private space exploration beyond low-Earth orbit, Space Adventures is also continuing to pursue its planned circumlunar mission. After consultation with Rocket Space Corporation Energia, modifications to the Soyuz TMA configuration have been agreed upon, the company announced. Anderson said the most important of these modifications is the addition of a second habitation module to the Soyuz TMA lunar complex. The additional module would launch with the Block DM propulsion module and rendezvous with the Soyuz spacecraft in low-Earth orbit.
"The next 10 years will be critical for the commercial spaceflight industry with new vehicles and destinations coming online," Anderson said. "But, in order to truly develop the industry and extend the reach of humanity over the course of time, there will need to be breakthrough discoveries made and innovative propulsion systems designed that will bring the solar system into our economic sphere of influence."
The company currently offers a variety of programs such as the availability today for spaceflight missions to the ISS and around the moon, zero gravity flights, cosmonaut training, spaceflight qualification programs and reservations on future suborbital spacecraft. Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin is among Space Adventures board members.
"Space Adventures will once again grace the pages of aerospace history, when the first private circumlunar mission launches. We have sold one of the two seats for this flight and anticipate that the launch will occur in 2015," said Richard Garriott, vice-chairman of Space Adventures. "Having flown on the Soyuz, I can attest to how comfortable the spacecraft is, but the addition of the second habitation module will only make the flight that more enjoyable."