SpaceX was founded by Elon Musk, co-founder of Zip2 and Paypal. On March 24 his experimental Falcon I was launched from Kwajalein Atoll. Unfortunately the main engine failed after 29 seconds. Undeterred, SpaceX plans another launch in November. The much larger Falcon 9 is scheduled to launch in late '007. It will launch Bigelow's inflatable modules and the DRAGON spacecraft with a crew of 6-7. DRAGON will compete for America's Space Prize, 50 million for the first private spacecraft to fly 5 people into orbit twice within 60 days. This prize deadline is in 2010, so start building your rockets now.
At the International Space Development Conference this May, Musk told us he has contracts for 11 paid spaceflights. On August 18, NASA chose SpaceX along with Rocketplane Kistler to develop commercial launchers for the ISS. Musk estimates that price to orbit can be reduced to about 1000/kg. At that price, tourism starts to become very attractive!
A Lockheed representative told us that they could have Orion flying by 2012-2014. Some of these vehicles could be alternate launchers for the Orion. Doubts have been expressed about the Ares I design with its solid fuel first stage. Crews might get nervous flying atop a giant bottle rocket, for solid rockets can not be shut down or throttled once started.
Above are more models of ATLAS boosters. Below is the ASC SPACEPLANE, which is being developed in California. American Spacecraft Corporation is working on a full-scale mockup, which I hope to get photos of when available. They estimate that by 2018 there could be seven space stations with 40 people continuously in Space. Pioneers must be ready to take risks, but the opportunities are there before us.