The Story So Far

So where are we now and how did we get here?

The commercial space flight industry and Space tourism have a several precursors, but for me this all kicked off in 1996 when Dr. Peter Diamandis first announced the X Prize (later renamed the Ansari X Prize) in a bid to kick-start the commercial space flight industry.

The concept behind the Ansari X Prize was simple, offer a $10m cash purse for the first team to privately build and launch a reuseable vehicle in to space twice in a two-week period. Twenty severn teams from around the world entered the competition which was eventually won in October 2004 by Scaled Composites.

A number of important developments have taken place since the Ansari X Prize was launched, each one taking you and I a little bit closer to our own ride in to space. I’ve put together the following time line of events to give you a feel for how far we have come and to give you a taste for what might be around the corner.


  • 01/05/1996 The Ansari X Prize is launched, offering $10 Million to the first team to privately build and launch a reusable vehicle in to space twice within two weeks.


  • 01/01/1998 Eric C. Anderson Founds Space Adventures. The company aims to provide paying customers space related trips, including trips to space.


  • 28/04/2001 Dennis Tito reportedly pays Space Adventures $20 million and becomes the first space tourist , he travels to the international space station and spends a total of 9 days in space.


  • 25/04/2002 Mark Shuttleworth becomes the second space tourist and spends 11 days in space.
  • 01/06/02 Paypal Co-founder Elon Musk founds Space X a Private space transportation company.


  • 06/05/2004 The X Prize is renamed the Ansari X Prize following a multi-million dollar donation from entrepreneurs Anousheh Ansari and Amir Ansari.
  • 16/06/2004 Mojave Airport Becomes the first private inland airport in the USA to receive a spaceflight license and is formally renamed Mojave Air and Space Port.
  • 27/09/2004 Virgin Galactic is founded. Richard Bransons latest venture aims to provide private suborbital flights into space.
  • 29/09/2004 In the first of two qualifying flights to win the Ansari X Prize, Michael Melville becomes the worlds first commercial astronaut as he pilots Scaled Composites’ Spaceship one to a hight of 102.9km.
  • 04/10/2004 Brian Binnie clenches the X Prize for the Scaled Composites by piloting Spaceship One to a hight of 112 km on its second and final qualifying flight.


  • 01/01/2005 NASA solicits commercial rocket companies to submit proposals for resupply of the ISS following the retirement of the shuttle (C.O.T.S Program).
  • 27/05/2005Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites join Forces and found The Spaceship Company. The company is to build a fleet of space craft based on the design of Spaceship One.
  • 10/08/2005 Space Adventures announces plans to offer flights around the moon.
  • 01/10/2005 Gregory Oslen becomes the 3rd space tourist, spending 11 days in space.


  • 01/03/2006 Sapce X submit the Dragon Capsule to NASA as a candidate for the C.O.T.S. program.
  • 24/03/2006 The first attempt by Space X to launch Falcon 1, its own privately built rocket, ends in failure.
  • 04/04/2006 construction of Spaceport America begins. The space port is to be the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport and world headquarters to Virgin Galactic.
  • 04/04/2006 Bigelow Aerospace launches an experimental, Inflatable space habitat, Genesis 1 into Orbit. The companies aim is to provide space destinations for paying customers. Those destinations can range from orbiting hotels to orbiting laboratories.
  • 21/07/2006 Space Adventures announces that it will be offering the opportunity of a space walk to future clients.
  • 18/08/2206 NASA announces that Space X has won a Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contract to demonstrate cargo delivery to the International Space Station.
  • 18/09/2006 Anousheh Ansari becomes the 1st female space tourist and the 4th person to pay for a trip in to space.


  • 01/02/2007 Officials from Virgin and NASA signed a memorandum of understanding to explore the potential for collaboration.
  • 21/03/2007 The second attempt by Space X to launch Falcon 1 in to space fails.
  • 07/04/2207 Charles Simonyi becomes the 5th space tourist on the first of 2 trips to the ISS, He spends 15 days on orbit.
  • 28/06/2207 Bigelow Aerospace launches its second Inflatable Habitat, Genesis 2 in to Orbit.
  • 13/09/2007 The Google Lunar X Prize is announced the competition offers a total of US$30 million in prizes to the first privately funded teams to land a robot on the Moon that successfully travels more than 500 metres (1,640 ft) and transmits back high-definition images and video.


  • 01/01/2008 Space Adventures acquires the Zero Gravity Corporation which is the first and only FAA-approved provider of weightless flights to the general public.
  • 03/04/2008 Virgin Galactic announces it will operate from European launch sites.
  • 03/08/2008 The third attempt by Space X to launch the Falcon 1 also fails.
  • 28/09/2008 The fourth attempt by Space X to launch the Falcon 1 is a success and the spacecraft achieve orbit.
  • 12/10/2008 Richard Garriott becomes the 6th space tourist and spends 12 days in space, and as the son of Astronaut Owen Garriott he becomes the 1st second generation Astronaut.
  • 25/10/2008 Armadillo Aerospace Wins top prize at Lunar Lander Challenge 2008.
  • 23/12/2008 NASA awards a cargo delivery contract to Space X.


  • 26/03/2009 Charles Simonyi becomes the first space tourist to return to space, his second trip lasts 14 days giving him a total of 29 days in space.
  • 14/07/2009 The fith launch attempt made by Space X of the Falcon 1 is another success.
  • 12/09/2009 Armadillo Areospace Wins Second prize at Lunar Lander Challenge 2009.
  • 30/09/2009 Guy Laliberté becomes the 7th Space tourist and spends 12 days in space.
  • 07/12/2009 The Spaceship Company reveals Spaceship 2 for the first time.


  • 01/03/2010 Spaceship Two flys with mother ship (White Knight 2) for the first time.
  • 29/04/2010 Space Adventures announces an exclusive deal with Armadillo Aerospace.
  • 04/06/2010 Space X Launches the Falcon 9 on its first Qualification flight. The launch is a success and the vehicle achieved orbit.
  • 01/10/2010 Spaceport America opens its first runway.
  • 08/12/2010 Space X launch the Dragon Capsule on top of the Falcon 9 as a demonstration flight for the NASA C.O.T.S program.


  • 01/01/2011 Bigelow Aerospace enters discussion with NASA to provide a storage module for the ISS.
  • 01/02/2011 Bigelow Aerospace announces that it has agreements with 7 nations to allow them to utilize on-orbit facilities of the commercial space station.
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4 Responses to The Story So Far

  1. Pingback: The Story So Far (via meflyrocket) | GCS Chile (Astronautics) Blog

  2. This is a superb overview of the growing commercial space industry. Thank you for providing this perspective.

  3. Pingback: The Future of Commercial Spaceflight and Space Tourism | meflyrocket

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