With U.S. government closing the chapter to space exploration, commercial space companies are trying to convince lawmakers to invest in their business ventures.
The Space Exploration Technologies Corp. itself has invested $500 million in their commercial-space ventures, but congress is still unconvinced about the market for space tourism.
What they call SpaceX has been a program in the works for the past nine years. Chief Executive of the company Elon Musk previously told lawmakers he had invested $100 million, an amount significantly smaller than he is now saying.
Before the House Science Committee this week, Musk insists that the company's program goals are those of advancing space rather than generating a profit. So far, the government has invested a total of $300 million in Elon's company. Among many others, they are one of the leading programs asking for more financial support from the government. According to Musk, he is negotiating for a cost of $20 million per seat in these spacecrafts set to start in 2014.
Musk was one of the first to step up on the plate before House members. Others executives including Boeing, Sierra Nevada Systems, ATK Launch Systems, and United Launch Alliance all proposed their plans for funding the Commercial Crew Development program.
The White House and the NASA are pushing for lawmakers to allocate $6 billion towards commercial space programs over the next five years. To this end, many want to cut down on that amount because some commercial-space companies themselves are not committing.
Although most of House seemed unmoved, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher R-Calif. finds the attitude toward commercial space companies too negative. As a whole, many disagreed about different aspects of the plans, but the majority seemed to support the companies' overall goals.
The latest development plan of SpaceX is a preliminary design of its abort system. After getting approval from NASA, the Dragon spacecraft is officially authorized to fly. In upcoming months, the company has plans for SpaceX to launch its unmanned Dragon capsule to deliver cargo aboard the International Space Station (ISS). By late 2012, they hope for the Dragon to start making regular deliveries to the ISS.