When Obama cancelled the Constellation program, I was disappointed, not realizing how close we seem to be to what he was advocating - pursuing capitalism and American ingenuity in the development of a new day in the space program.
So who is doing what and what kind of progress are they making? Here are just a few...
Blue Origin is based in Washington State and is run by Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com. This company is developing a VTOL - Vertical Take Off and Landing vehicle. The craft, "New Shepherd," will be launched vertically to begin its mission. It will then return to earth and briefly before landing fire its engines so that it will land vertically. The craft is being developed to transport astronauts to space station and paying passengers to orbit.It will be controlled entirely by onboard computers without ground control.
Blue Origin had a successful, unmanned test flight took place on November 13, 2006.
The New Shephard
Boeing CST-100 will be similar to the NASA Orion capsule that is being developed, but is a very different capsule. Still, it is often called Orion-Lite. It could carry a crew of up to seven people, stay in orbit for up to seven months and would be a reusable craft. It will be launched by NASA's Atlas V or Delta IV, or private industry's Falcon. The continued development is very dependent on the Federal Budget 2011. If things go well, Boeing anticipates the craft could be operational by 2015. The name CST refers to Crew Space Transport - and 100 refers to 100 km, the official boundary of space.
Bigelow Aerospace Commercial Space Stations are being designed by hotel magnate Robert Bigelow, who initially planned to build orbital hotels. The first module of the space station will be sent into orbit in 2014. Bigelow recently announced that several nations have signed onto the project - United Kingdom, Netherlands, Australia, Singapore, Japan, and Sweden.
-Orbital Sciences Corp. in Dulles, Virginia has built over 569 launch vehicles and delivered almost 200 satellites. a. Building Taurus rocket and Cygnus spacecraft. First test flight scheduled for 2011 from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Holds $1.9 billion contract with NASA for cargo runs to space station.
-Sierra Nevada Corp., is developing the Dream Chaser, a mini shuttle that would be capable of carrying crew of seven. To be launched aboard United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rocket. First flight with crew planned by 2014. Unlike the retiring Space Shuttle, it will be able to able to land at most airports in the world.
-Space Exploration Technologies Corp. in Hawthorne, Calif. Run by PayPal co-founder Elon Musk. Building Falcon rocket and Dragon spacecraft. The Dragon spacecraft would provide for a crew of up to seven, or a cargo only format. The company has said on several occasions that it is on target for being used in 2013 to 201.