What is the future of Spaceflight? SLS, SpaceX, Virgin Galactic?

NASA SLS rocket

NASA SLS rocket

Looking at the future of manned spaceflight, and even the future of non-manned spaceflight can be confusing. There are so many players building launch capability for the U.S. it can be a bit of a quandary.  NASA is spending $41 Billion on the Space Launch System (SLS) which will be completed in 2030 ($1.2 billion spent just this year). Space X is launching the Dragon Capsule to space station this year. Space X also has serious rockets in development and ready for use. Virgin Galactic has its new launch vehicle well under way, and there are many other players. NASA itself seems a bit confused as they are supporting private industry in efforts to have commercial capability developed for space access but they are also spending huge dollars on the SLS system which in many cases is capability that is already being developed or in place using private industry. On one hand NASA is building it’s own SLS but on the other they are funding and supporting private industry.

It seems like a clear plan could be developed which would eliminate some of the duplication of effort, save tax dollars, and this would allow for new programs such as robotic missions to be supported by NASA. One of the budget proposals currently under review already has fewer private companies supported as part of its content.

The recent retirement of the Space Shuttle and it’s low fly bys of over the east coast has served to inspire some but also sadden at the same time as the U.S. no longer has the  capability to put a man in space.

What are your thoughts of the future of the U.S. and spaceflight? Is this the beginning of the end of U.S. leadership in manned spaceflight? Is NASA going down the right path? Feel free to leave a comment here and give us your thoughts.