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Commercial human spaceflight and the arms control problem

Spacecraft are technically munitions, meaning booking foreign passengers for flights run by a U.S. company counts as exporting arms

Despite the fact that many commercial human spaceflight companies have thus far been financially fueled by adventurer-billionaires like The Virgin Group’s Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic), PayPal’s Elon Musk (SpaceX) and’s Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin), everyone in this emerging industry agrees that the goal is economic sustainability. A company must become profitable in its own right by attracting ample numbers of passengers who have the financial means to pay the substantial ticket price for a trip to space.

This amount will range from the high tens of thousands for passengers on XCOR's suborbital flights aboard the two-person ‘Lynx’ spacecraft, to millions of dollars for a flight aboard a SpaceX ‘Dragon’ capsule destined for, say, one of Bigelow Aerospace’s orbiting space habitats. Ultimately, seats will be available for expeditions to the moon at prices in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars. With these price points, a spaceflight company’s long-term viability will require a global customer base. Companies must be able to tap into the universe of people around the globe who have both the desire and money to participate in this new wave of human exploration.

Contributing Author

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Doug Griffith

Doug Griffith is a Los Angeles attorney whose practice caters exclusively to clients in the aviation and commercial human spaceflight industries. Formerly with the aviation practice...

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