The momentum building behind the space tourism industry does not seem affected by the July industrial explosion that killed three employees of Scaled Composites, the leading private spacecraft manufacturer.
The accident occurred at the Mojave Desert spaceport that launched Scaled Composites’ SpaceShipOne, the first—and so far only—private spacecraft. The workers were testing components of SpaceShipTwo, which is being developed for Richard Branson’s fledgling space tourism company, Virgin Galactic.
Branson has invested $200 million toward launching the first Virgin Galactic flight in 2009, and those plans are still moving forward. What’s more, Northrop Grumman, the giant defense contractor, still saw enough star potential in Scaled Composites to buy the company. Burt Rutan, founder of Scaled Composites, and Branson aren’t the only ones privatizing space. In September, Google announced Moon 2.0, the newest X Prize Foundation contest, aimed at putting private rovers on the moon before the end of 2012. Whoever does so can claim a $20 million jackpot.
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