Commercial Space Pays Off
With the space shuttle retired, the Constellation program dead and NASA's Space Launch System politically embattled, the low-orbit-trucking free-for-all is on, and private-sector space enterprises are rushing to fill the gap. And 2013 was a particularly good year. We saw two of the chief contenders -- SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp., both recipients of NASA funding under the Commercial Crew Initiative -- successfully complete testing and docking procedures with the International Space Station [sources: Achenbach; Kramer; MSNBC; NASA].
Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic continued its plans to provide one-percenters somewhere to spend whatever cash they aren't using to light their Gurkha Black Dragon cigars and mop up spills of 1928 Krug. This year, the company's Spaceship Two became the first commercial spacecraft to pass Mach One, bringing it one step closer to its goal of taking passengers to the edge of space and back at $250,000 a pop [sources: Chang; Virgin Galactic].