The New Age of Commercial Space Travel

NASA plans to retire the Space Shuttle program in 2010 and have a replacement, the Constellation, ready for launch in 2015. But the budget-starved space agency set the odds of making that deadline at only 65 percent in a report to Congress this week. Even if it meets the deadline, the Constellation's launch will come at the end of the longest gap between crewed U.S. space missions since the end of the Apollo Program and the development of the Space Shuttle. Sounds bad, but it could mean the beginning of the true Space Age.

With more than 8,000 NASA employees looking for jobs when the Shuttle Program wraps up, the private sector space industry could get a serious brain injection.

NASA will continue sending up rockets to launch new satellites between 2010 and 2015, the market for crewed missions to conduct repairs on existing satellites or other sensitive missions isn't likely to shrink. With all those aerospace engineers looking for something to do with their degrees, I predict we will see a burst of private space industry startups. The demand is there. The expertise is there. The real question — will the money be there? Image by NASA. [Information Week]