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Technology Review's Briefings are primers on key emerging technologies that promise to be transformational in their impact.

Private Spaceflight

Introduction

For decades, national space agencies like NASA held an iron grip on space travel. But in the last few years their budgets have been constrained while the private sector has made tremendous technical progress. The result is the dawn of a new space industry. Where once America and Russia raced to the moon, now the competition is between entrepreneurs vying for business.

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The Big Picture The Space Boom

  • By Stephen Cass

There are now more types of rockets and spacecraft flying and soon to be flying than at any other time since the early days of the space race. The rocket with the longest private space travel record is the Russian Soyuz (far right), which was developed by the Communist Soviet regime in the depths of the Cold War. Although a third stage was added when it was adapted for manned spaceflight (Soyuz is also the name of the spacecraft that carries cosmonauts on top of the rocket), the Soyuz rocket has the same basic design as the rocket used to launch Sputnik in 1957. In 2001, millionaire Westerners started using Soyuz craft to fly to the International Space Station.

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