The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket has successfully launched with the Crew Dragon capsule attached. This is the first time the crew capsule has made its way into space and although there were no passengers or crew on board, this is still a massive step forward for SpaceX and the space tourism industry as a whole.
With a number of high profile failures, the industry was desperate for a win, and this is a big one. The Falcon 9 will dock with the International Space Station, before attempting a re-entry as the most complete passenger rocket in existence.
What does this mean for space tourism and SpaceX in particular? When will we finally get civilians into space? Well, it won’t be for a while – which is as specific as any business wants to be. With numerous more test flights to be completed before bringing crew on board, and then even more before passengers, the number of potential delays is virtually limitless. At the more significant end of the scale are disaster-level events such as explosions and crashes which mean delays of years between test launches and cost overruns into the tens of millions. At the lower end are mechanical failure and business issues such as staffing requirements and financial pressures. Any of these can have an impact on investors and the general public’s interest in the programs – something vital to the industry.
But a successful launch – and hopefully an equally successful re-entry, means that there will be increased confidence in the SpaceX team and a refocus on achieving critical benchmarks.