Aerospace and defense giant Boeing has tossed its hat into the space-tourism ring, announcing that it has agreed to market future rides into Earth orbit to paying customers. The company announced the private-spaceflight initiative, in concert with Space Adventures, on September 15.
The future of private spaceflight remains speculative—no one can say with any certainty which companies will manage in the coming decades to get more than a handful of customers off the ground, in which crew capsule, and aboard which rocket. Space Adventures can lay claim to delivering seven customers to orbit, but those fliers each bought seats on Russian Soyuz spacecraft rather than on wholly commercial vessels.
So far, space tourism has been the territory of smaller start-ups such as Space Adventures and Armadillo Aerospace. (Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is a high-profile player in the game, but the flights his company sells do not reach orbit.)
Boeing’s participation lends some corporate muscle to the private-spaceflight business, but its proposed contributions are still sketchy. A joint press release from Boeing and Space Adventures trumpets only an agreement to sell “anticipated transportation services” to private individuals, companies and even U.S. government agencies other than NASA. The rockets themselves might come from United Launch Alliance, co-owned by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, or from SpaceX, the company headed by PayPal co-founder Elon Musk.