First and foremost would be SpaceX, the company that wants to make the new NASA lauch vehicle, and seems to be succesful so far. The Falcon 9 vehicle developed by SpaceX has completed a number of test launches and flights last year. In December it carried the also SpaceX made crew capsule Dragon into space, making it the first ever commercial spacecraft in orbit to also be returned safe.
The main challenge now will be to satisfy NASA's safety requirements, which are now more then ever in the minds of people, 25 years after the Challenger accident.
Another interesting company to emerge is Excalibur Almaz. The company plans on using spacecraft based on the Soviet Space Programmes's TKS spacecraft and the Almanaz space stations (better known as Solyut 2, 3 and 5). The TKS spacecraft is unique in that it can launch atop any of several rockets of various spacefaring countries meaning that Excalibur Almaz has several possibilities for launching their vehicles.
The company plans to first flights in 2012 and begin making profit as early as 2013.
|Solyut 5 (Anyone know where this image is from? I would like to give credit)|
There are however also critics of commercial spaceflight saying that the industry has little experience, and that safety will be comprimised as a result. The problem with spaceflight is that it is inherently dangerous. Small errors can destroy whole spacecraft or kill crews. In 1979 a small valve opened in the returning capsule of the soviet spacecraft soyuz 11, and the 3 crew members suffocated.
With experience and testing however space flight should slowly become safer and then eventually more accessible. In the early years it will be massively expensive to even go on a "space holiday", but in years to come the price should come down slowly as technology advances and becomes more readily available.
What's your stance on privatising space exploration or "space companies"?
Would anyone else really like to live in a space station for a while? Or for a holiday? ;)