SpaceX, the private space firm founded by the dude who founded PayPal, not the dude obsessed with naming things vaguely sexual things just to see if he can, has just successfully launched their Dragon module. It’s only supposed to hang there doing nothing for a bit according to the flight plan:
“Launch and separate from Falcon 9, orbit Earth, transmit telemetry, receive commands, demonstrate orbital maneuvering and thermal control, re-enter atmosphere, and recover Dragon spacecraft”
But they hope that will lead to bigger and better things in the coming year, including a successful docking with the ISS. Basically, SpaceX and other independent space companies hope that undercutting NASA will be good business. And what with NASA basically saying they’re not going to bother trying anything for another 5-10 years to see if space lowers it’s guard, it’s looking like that’s a good bet.
Even if none of these companies become Weyland-Yutani or anything, it’s still heartening to see that there’s some decent progress in finding cost-effective solutions for space travel. I don’t expect to have a personal X-Wing any time soon, but I cannot imagine that being able to explore the other 99.999…9% of the universe will eventually come in handy. The nice part about small companies is that the day-to-day keeps them on actually viable tracks toward bigger and better projects that build on previous experience, instead of promising to get to Mars in a machine built last decade for a budget of $Shoe.