Obama Wants To Privatize Space Travel



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The Obama administration wants to outsource whole swaths of the space program to the private sector, the Wall Street Journal reports.Mostly, these private firms would be tasked with transporting cargo and astronauts into space.

Bonus: Click here to see the commercial spaceships →

NASA would stick around, but proponents of the plan see it turning into a “conduit” for tech developed outside the federal government.

WSJ: Contract winners would use corporate funds to build and test rockets, provide compatible space capsules and then try to recoup those investments by offering commercial-style transportation services to the agency. Essentially, NASA would be paying a set fee for every pound or person transported to orbit.

This is great news for a group of mostly West Coast-based space travel startups founded by already-rich enterprenuers like Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Elon Musk, and John Carmack.

The Journal singles out PayPal and Tesla cofounder Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp — known as SpaceX — as a startup that stands to benefit from the shift in policy.

But there are plenty of other private-sector firms set to take advantage of the new policy, including Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

Some others are:

  • Alliant Techsystems Inc
  • Orbital Sciences
  • EADS Astrium
  • XCOR Aerospace
  • Rocketplane Limited
  • Space Adventures
  • Blue Origin
  • Armadillo Aerospace 

Bonus: Click here to learn more about the private aerospace companies and see their spaceships →

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[slide
permalink=”space-exploration-technologies-corp-1″
title=”Space Exploration Technologies Corp”
content=”The Journal calls Space Exploration Technologies Corp. — better known as SpaceX — a ‘a trailblazer in this commercial space arena.’ Founded by Elon Musk, the same guy running electric car startup Tesla, SpaceX has successfully launched two rockets after multiple failures. It plans to launch the cargo-carrying Falcon 9 Heavy sometime in 2010.”
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[slide
permalink=”united-launch-alliance-2″
title=”United Launch Alliance”
content=”United Launch Alliance is a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin. It already launches almost all of the Pentagon’s biggest satellites. The company is working to modify its Delta IV and Atlas V rockets for human launches.”
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[slide
permalink=”alliant-techsystems-inc-3″
title=”Alliant Techsystems Inc.”
content=”Alliant Techsystems is the company that doesn’t want to see the space program further outsourced to private companies. That’s because it already has a sweet contract with NASA to develop a rocket called the Ares I. NASA has already spent $3 billion on it, and it should be ready before most other firms can finish their rival rockets.”
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[slide
permalink=”orbital-sciences-4″
title=”Orbital Sciences”
content=”Orbital Scienes is another company already benefitting from NASA contracts. But its hedging its bets, and has begun testing designs optimised for crew transportation.”
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4a92ada560397d266ec6a42d/image.jpg”
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[slide
permalink=”virgin-galactic-5″
title=”Virgin Galactic”
content=”Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is a more consumer-oriented startup. If all goes according to plan, Virgin’s spaceships will offer the paying public sub-orbital flights by 2011.”
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4a92a62af583e02c38a773df/image.jpg”
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[slide
permalink=”eads-astrium-6″
title=”EADS Astrium”
content=”A subsidiary of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company, EADS Astrium plans to charge consumers €200,000 for trips to sub-orbital space starting in 2012. The four-passenger ships will takeoff from regular airports.”
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4a92ae0f65bc34627d3035f7/image.jpg”
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[slide
permalink=”xcor-aerospace-7″
title=”XCOR Aerospace”
content=”Founded in 1999 and based in the Mojave dessert, XCOR Aerospace already owns a few government contracts for fancy helium powered space-ready fuel pumps and the like. But the company’s real goal is to sell rides on its suborbital spacecraft starting in 2010.”
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[slide
permalink=”rocketplane-limited-8″
title=”Rocketplane Limited”
content=”Naturally, not every space travel startup will succeed. One that’s already failed is Rocketplane Limited, which shuttered in February 2009. At one point, Rocketplane won commercial crew and cargo resupply contracts to the International Space Station under the NASA COTS (Commercial Orbital Transportation Services) program.”
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permalink=”blue-origin-9″
title=”Blue Origin”
content=”Blue Origin is the aerospace firm privately owned by Amazon.com (AMZN) CEO Jeff Bezos. Following some setbacks, it now plans to send unmanned flights into orbit by 2011. The plan is to fly astronauts into space by 2012.”
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[slide
permalink=”armadillo-aerospace-10″
title=”Armadillo Aerospace”
content=”Armadillo Aerospace’s orginal plan was suborbital space tourism. But the company now plans to reach Earth’s orbit and go beyond, having won the Lunar Landing Challenge in 2008. Armadillo plans to put rockets in orbit with a ‘massive-cluster-of-cheap-modules,’ according to John Carmack, the company’s founder. Carmack is best known for creating the video game series Doom and Quake.

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