On May 31, 2012, the Dragon capsule designed by SpaceX was the first private launch vehicle to reach the International Space Station. The Dragon was built by Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corporation. Some of the plans for space exploration involvement by private enterprise include transporting cargo and asteroid mining. In the near future, private companies will be involved in shuttling equipment and spacemen into low orbit safely.
The United States government will use private companies for space exploration in low Earth orbit and use its resources and manpower for bigger projects, including voyages to Mars and Jupiter. They are also planning on visiting asteroids.
Private companies have proven they can afford to invest billons of dollars. Examples are the tens of billions of dollars Boeing spent on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the five billion dollars Motorola spent on the Iridium satellite constellation in the 1990s.
SpaceX, Boeing, and Blue Origins (backed by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos), and Sierra Nevada Corporation are developing manned spacecraft for sending Americans into space. Blue Origins’ main office is located in Kent, Washington, and Sierra Nevada Corporation’s main office is in Sparks, Nevada.
SpaceX Corporation is bold enough to be planning on financing and developing a manned mission to Mars. Another company making plans for designing space exploration vehicles is Planetary Resources. Its main office is located in Seattle, Washington, and is backed up by Google co-founder Larry Page and former Microsoft architect Charles Simonyi. It is interested in developing robotic spacecraft for the mining of asteroids for rare metals. Bigelow Aerospace in Las Vegas, Nevada, is developing spacecraft that will be leased to the United States government and private companies for many uses, including biotech research.
One problem is the US government is not planning on paying the full bill for personnel carriers to space. They are requiring the private companies to bid a price for the business.
SpaceX Corporation will award twenty million dollars to the first privately funded team to build a robots that lands on the moon, explores its surface for at least one third of a mile and sends high definition video back to the Earth. Five million dollars will be awarded to the second privately funded team to complete the requirements. Four million dollars in bonus prizes are available for operation at night on the moon, traveling more than five kilometers, detection of water and landing near an Apollo mission site. Teams participating include “Astrobotic Technology, Next Giant Leap, Part-Time Scientists, Mystical Moon, Penn State Lunar Lions, Space II of Israel, Puli of Hungary, and teams from Canada, the Isle of Man, Italy, Romania, Brazil, Chile, Denmark, Malaysia, the Netherlands, India, Spain, and Germany.”
There have been plans for building motels in space for several years. One of the current attempts is by Robert Bigelow of Bigelow Aerospace, who is testing plans for an inflatable space hotel that will fly in low-Earth orbits. It has 330 cubic meters of space. The hotel is based on the NASA-designed Transhab. Bigelow has secured space aboard two Russian Dnepr rockets. He has named it Genesis.