A “New Era” of Spaceflight

SpaceX can now send humans to space. But are there really customers who want to go into orbit?

SpaceX achieved something historic with its Demo-2 launch. The company’s Crew Dragon vehicle became the first private spacecraft to take humans into orbit—a milestone for NASA, the American space industry, and the company itself. Afterwards, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine told reporters that the mission had helped establish the success of a new business model, where NASA is one of many customers turning to private industry to meet its travel needs into low Earth orbit.

But while SpaceX is now a proven option for sending people into orbit (Boeing will be too, once it shows that its Starliner vehicle can take astronauts into space), it’s too early to say there’s a viable market of customers who want to use this option. “I think this launch, and Crew Dragon, are more symbolic than they are real in terms of opening up orbit to widespread private travel,” says John Logsdon, a space policy expert at George Washington University.

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