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NewSpace 2010: Alan Stern’s Vision for Commercial Space in 2025

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
July 23, 2010

Dr. Alan Stern

Dr. Alan Stern

Alan Stern
Southwest Research Institute
“New Space Economy of the Late 2020’s”


  • More pessimistic about commercial space – “If you’re waiting for Godot, Godot is not coming”
  • Why? Put up a picture of Congress in session
  • Too many cooks in the kitchen, too many other priorities
  • Every other November, my job is at stake…my job is to protect my constituents
  • Must think more about how to do commercial space without the government’s involvement

Space Circa 2025


  • 2nd gen suborbital – $30K per seat, 10-20 flights per day, 60-200 seats per day, $.7-$2.2 billion/year
  • First generation point-to-point suborbital in testing
  • Very difficult to have first generation vehicles online – Virgin Galactic predicted commercial spaceflight in 2007, they’re still not flying


  • Flights once a week in LEO taxis…
  • Garriott: Made $9 million on his $35 million flight – Garriott said when prices drop to $9 million, then can fly whenever he wants

Beyond LEO

  • 1-2 commercial lunar flybys, 2-4 seats/year, $400 million year

Total Commercial Market Size in 2025

  • HSF @ $2025: $10 billion/year
  • Current Industries:
    • $10 billion: launch
    • $100 billion: comsats
    • $500 billion: airline industry

What Could Drive Commercial Space Forward

  • Lean, high volume transport that fulfills an economic need
  • Investors with breakthrough apps
  • Innovative near-space access for “European vacation” prices
    • High altitude balloon all day for the family
    • Near-space hotel
  • Exploration and entertainment applications in human spaceflight
  • Money from businesses surrounding spaceports
  • Monetizing space science
    • NASA spends $5 billion/year on space science research
    • Commercial companies are not in that space
  • Eschew government entanglements
  • Win on volume
  • Think about “mom and pop” space businesses
  • Not every business in space has to have its own spacecraft and launchers

2 responses to “NewSpace 2010: Alan Stern’s Vision for Commercial Space in 2025”

  1. spacechampion says:

    * Near-space hotel

    That sounds intriguing. I imagine a high-altitude chalet like a ski resort, but for space divers. I could see the initial construction lifted and held up there by balloon, but later a tether could be attached going up to higher orbit (anybody want to do the calculation on how high the counter weight has to be?) as a proto-space-elevator to send space divers higher up the bean stalk to go after new space-diving records.

  2. JohnHunt says:

    > Eschew government entanglements

    I disagree. SpaceX owes a lot to NASA funding. NASAs COTS funding has helped tremendously and its commitment to purchasing future flights provides other customers with a level of assurance that SpaceX is going to be around.

    NASA as a purchaser for commercial services which it helped facilitate is the model which should repeated. The same sort of thing should be done for cis-lunar and lunar-surface sustainable space development with the goal of achieving lunar-derived, propellant-quantity deliveries of oxygen (maybe hydrogen) to LEO. If this can be achieved, then everyone can start playing in space.

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