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Press Release
Media Contact: 800-787-7223 or press@space-frontier.org
Commerce Department Releases Report on Emerging Market Opportunities in Suborbital Space

Washington, D.C., December 5, 2002 – The U.S. Department of Commerce's Technology Administration, in conjunction with The Aerospace Corporation, today released a technical report describing several suborbital reusable launch vehicle (SRLV) concepts currently in development and defining possible civil, military, and commercial markets these new vehicles might serve. The report is titled, "Suborbital Reusable Launch Vehicles and Applicable Markets."

When compared to the single use expendable rocket systems used today to launch satellites into orbit, reusable vehicles might provide lower operating costs, shorter turn-around times, greater reliability and safety, and more versatile performance. However, attempts to develop reusable launch vehicles that can reach orbit have proven difficult and expensive.

In response, many entrepreneurial companies are shifting focus toward building SRLVs, which, although not able to reach orbit, would provide services at altitudes up to 100 miles. Examples of these services might include military surveillance, commercial/civil earth imagery, fast package delivery, high-speed passenger transportation, and space tourism. SRLVs, whose feasibility was proven over 40 years ago by the successful development and operation of the X-15 spaceplane, would be much smaller, potentially simpler, and cheaper than orbital reusable launch vehicles.

Many entrepreneurs see SRLVs as only a small first step – a chance to begin generating sales revenue, attracting private investment, and testing various vehicle designs. A next step could be building larger reusable vehicles, capable of reaching orbital altitudes.

The SRLV report complements several other Commerce Department initiatives with industry to promote commercial uses of space, including a November 2001 conference on "Market Opportunities in Space: the Near Term Roadmap;" an October 2001 Space Economic Data workshop; and periodic meetings with the President's Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry.

On-line copies of the report are available at:
http://www.ta.doc.gov/reports
For hard copies, please call the publications request line at (202) 482-3037.


The Space Frontier Foundation is an organization of people dedicated to opening the Space Frontier to human settlement as rapidly as possible. Our goals include protecting the Earth's fragile biosphere and creating a freer and more prosperous life for each generation by using the unlimited energy and material resources of space. Our purpose is to unleash the power of free enterprise and lead a united humanity permanently into the Solar System.

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Our definition of a "frontier enabling" technology or policy is one which has as its effect the acceleration of the creation of low cost access to the space frontier for private citizens and companies, enables or accelerates our use of space resources, and/or accelerates the rate at which wealth can be generated in space. In other words, is the project or policy going to provide a return on the national investment, if we define "return" to be the economically sustainable human habitation of space?

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