Privatization of the space industry: What does it mean?


Anaita Mistry

Virgin Galactic is selling tickets for spots on their website for future space flights that anyone can purchase, even ordinary civilians.

Anaita Mistry, AVT Page Editor

The privatization of the space industry is going to provide civilians with the once in a lifetime chance to go to space.

Once only reserved for the highly trained and military personnel, opportunities to go to space are becoming far more accessible. Or are they? With a plethora of test flights early this year, and more recently, manned flights, the idea of civilians going to space is now closer to reality. 

“To be honest, I’m not sure how many civilians are really going to go [to space]. I see it more like that we’ll be able to send more researchers out there,” said Aria Trivedi (‘22).

Companies like Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, and SpaceX are competing to provide those opportunities the quickest. However, the price for a seat is sky-high, with the price of Virgin Galactic’s July 11th sub-orbital test flight starting at $450,000.

“It seems weird for billionaires to try to do so much [in order to get to space] just for a few rich people,” said AV Space & Astronomy Club Co-President, Camille DeMange (‘22)

While fully commercial flights are not expected until the last quarter of 2022, the prices aren’t expected to go down substantially. Sub-orbital flights, known as “up-and-down” flights, are less expensive than their orbital flight counterparts, which travel farther and last longer. The prices for tickets have a large range, as many companies project much lower prices than those they offer currently. 

“It’s like the airplane and how novel of an idea that was. Once it became more commercialized people started using them more,” said Trivedi (‘22).

On September 15th, 2021, SpaceX launched its first all-civilian crew into space. The crew, known as the Inspiration4, consisted of mission pilot, Sian Proctor, and mission communicator, Jared Isaacman. St. Jude medical expert, Hayley Arceneaux, and mission specialist, Chris Sembroski, also joined the space flight. The Inspiration4 splashed down in the Atlantic 3 days later on September 18, 2021.

“Incorporating companies like SpaceX in the space industry has helped with lots of innovation, like the reusable rocket that is being used [for launches] ” said DeMange (‘22)

While the commercialization of spaceflight is questionable, the technological gains made by incorporating private companies is projected to have great effects on space exploration. The upcoming NASA Artemis Mission, which aims to go back to the moon by 2024, will be using payloads, experiments, and more all built by private companies.

“It could also help that all of the equipment isn’t just coming from one place. This [privatization] could really encourage growth for the industry and companies,” said DeMange (‘22)