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Troubling Times For Private Space Flight46:45Download

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With guest host Jane Clayson.

A rocket explodes, a Virgin Galactic flight breaks up, a co-pilot dead. We look at the future of commercial space flight.

The Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo rocket explodes in the air during a test flight on Friday, Oct. 31, 2014. The explosion killed a pilot aboard and seriously injured another while scattering wreckage in Southern California's Mojave Desert, witnesses and officials said. (AP)
The Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo rocket explodes in the air during a test flight on Friday, Oct. 31, 2014. The explosion killed a pilot aboard and seriously injured another while scattering wreckage in Southern California's Mojave Desert, witnesses and officials said. (AP)

In the beginning, the business of taking man and machine to outer space was a race between great nations.  The Soviets.  The Americans and their 'Right Stuff.'  The also-ran Chinese.  Over time, the private sector has moved into the space business.  Today, there are scores of companies doing the grunt work of hauling satellites and NASA gear into the sky, and scores of others dreaming big dreams of mining asteroids and travel to the Moon.  But the two explosions last week have cast new light –and new scrutiny.  This hour, On Point:  The commercial space industry.  Where it is headed.
-- Jane Clayson

Guests

Andy Pasztor, senior special writer and aviation, air safety and aerospace reporter for The Wall Street Journal.

Jason Rhian, editor and founder of the online space journal, SpaceFlight Insider. (@spaceflightins)

Marco Cáceres, senior space analyst and director of space studies for the Teal Group.

Carolyn Porco, planetary scientist and Cassini-imaging lead. Director of the CICLOPS team. (@carolynporco)

From The Reading List

New York Times: Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Crashes in New Setback for Commercial Spaceflight — "It was the second major accident in a week for the commercial space industry, which has been widely promoted in recent years as an alternative to costly government programs. On Tuesday, an unmanned rocket launched by Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Va., which was carrying cargo to the International Space Station, exploded 15 seconds after launching."

The Wall Street Journal: Commercial Space Industry Faces Hurdles After Recent Accidents — "For nearly a decade, champions of space tourism and other commercial ventures seeking to get beyond the atmosphere have predicted the rapid emergence of a new industry. But a pair of launch failures last week, including Friday’s high-profile crash of a Virgin Galactic LLC rocket ship that broke apart miles above the earth killing one pilot and seriously injuring another, are prompting further questions about the future trajectory of such company-funded endeavors."

SpaceFlight Insider: Commercial Space Learns a Valuable, Painful Lesson --"It’s been a bad week for commercial space companies. On Tuesday, Oct. 28, Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus cargo ship Deke Slayton was destroyed when the Antares rocket carrying it exploded just after liftoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Barely three days later, on Friday, Oct. 31, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo crashed east of Mojave. No one was hurt in the explosion of the unmanned Antares, but SpaceShipTwo was crewed by two pilots, one of whom was killed – the other was badly injured."

This program aired on November 4, 2014.

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