Clarifying the term “commercial space”

May 16, 2012

Paul D. Spudis, writing in the Smithsonian Air & Space blog, explains why “commercial space” firms like SpaceX and Orbital Sciences aren’t “commercial” in the strictly defined capitalist sense – at least not with their current business model. He’s not unduly harsh, although it’s evident he doesn’t like the situation. However, his feelings come from a lack of a national space policy, not from the actions of the companies themselves. (I think SpaceX would prefer to be less beholden to the Government, but in many respects, right now, it’s the only game in town. I confess that I may believe that as much because of my own hopes as because of those of Elon Musk.)

Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch carrier and SpaceX-built rocket

And I agree, Bigelow Aerospace and Virgin Galactic better fit the definition of “commercial” in the purer sense. And Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch Systems, as well. Interesting that these companies don’t seem to expect to support themselves by providing services to the US Government.

And thanks to Mark Whittington for finding the article!


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