Who to watch in private space taxi field

February 2, 2010 4:53:54 PM PST
Here are some leading companies that are or could be developing a private space taxi system to take astronauts to the International Space Station. More firms may join in. -- THE COMPANY: Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, Calif.
THE BASICS: Run by PayPal founder Elon Musk, this company has already built and tested a private rocket, Falcon, and has a capsule, Dragon. It already has a demonstration contract for private cargo with NASA. It is considered a leader in the field and has connections with Google.
THE WEB SITE: http://www.spacex.com/

-- THE COMPANIES: Boeing Co. of Chicago and Bigelow Aerospace of Las Vegas.
THE BASICS: An interesting pairing. Boeing is one of the oldest companies in aerospace with corporate history going back to Mercury missions. Bigelow is a pioneer in the private space business that is developing a commercial space station/hotel. Boeing has its own much-launched rocket family, the Delta, and also is partners with Lockheed Martin Corp. in a firm that launches Delta and Atlas rockets.
THE WEB SITE: http://www.boeing.com/ and http://www.bigelowaerospace.com/

-- THE COMPANY: Sierra Nevada Corp. of Sparks, Nev.
THE BASICS: A high-tech government contractor that recently bought one of the early private space firms, SpaceDev Inc.
THE WEB SITE: http://www.sncorp.com/

-- THE COMPANY: Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va.
THE BASICS: One of the first private space companies. It has its own in-use rocket family, Taurus, which launches from Wallops Island, Va. It also has a demonstration contract for private cargo with NASA.
THE WEB SITE: http://www.orbital.com/

-- THE COMPANY: Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, Md., or as part of United Launch Alliance of Denver.
THE BASICS: Lockheed Martin had been building the capsule for NASA's moon mission that is being canceled. It is an aerospace giant with a long history in manned space and has its own family of decades-old rockets, the Atlas. It could compete on its own or as part of the United Launch Alliance, which is a joint venture with Boeing that launches unmanned commercial rockets.
THE WEB SITES: http://www.lockheedmartin.com and http://www.ulalaunch.com/