Amongst all the american rhetoric about the future of space travel and the roles that should be played by government and private enterprise, one fact stands out clearly: If it is ever to become financially viable it has to be commercialised. Space technology development needs commercial pressures to increase efficiency and bring prices down. One of the many companies currently working to provide space travel products is SpaceX.
The FAA has just awarded SpaceX the first ever commercial license to allow a private space-craft to re-enter the atmosphere in american airspace. The license is valid for one year, but it means that SpaceX are now permitted to take a spacecraft to orbit, and land it on American soil – vital to their success since they are an american based company. In other words, this license means that we are about to see the first ever private spacecraft reach orbit and land succesfully! With luck, this will open the floodgates and space travel will no longer be the exclusive preserve of fantastically wealthy governments!