Private spaceflight is flight beyond the Kármán line (above the nominal edge of space at 100 km (62 mi) Earth altitude)—or the development of new spaceflight technology—that is conducted and paid for by an entity other than a government agency.In the early decades of the Space Age, the government space agencies of the Soviet Union and United States pioneered space technology in collaboration with affiliated design bureaus in the USSR and private companies in the US, entirely funding both the development of new spaceflight technologies and the operational costs of spaceflight.
Private spaceflight in Earth orbit includes communications satellites, satellite television, satellite radio, astronaut transport and sub-orbital and orbital space tourism.
In the 2000s, entrepreneurs began designing and—by the 2010s, deploying—competitive space systems to the national-monopoly governmental systems These new offerings have brought about significant market competition in space launch services after 2010 that had not been present previously.
Successes to date include flying suborbital spaceplanes, launching orbital rockets, flying a couple of orbital expandable test modules (Genesis I and II), and the successful development of first-stage orbital launch vehicles that are able to vertically land after a launch so as to enable reuse.
Planned private spaceflights beyond Earth orbit include personal spaceflights around the Moon.
In a 2012 article in Bloomberg, author Michael Burgan asserted that there is a "grand tradition of private wealth furthering advances in rocketry and space exploration" dating back to the early rocketry experiments of Robert Goddard.
Despite those earlier private undertakings, during the principal period of spaceflight in the mid-twentieth century, only nation states developed and flew spacecraft above the Kármán line, the nominal boundary of space. civilian space program and Soviet space program were operated using mainly military pilots as astronauts.
Spaceflight was thus the monopoly province of a small group of national governments. During this period, no commercial space launches were available to private operators, and no private organization was able to offer space launches.
Eventually, private organizations were able to both offer and purchase space launches, thus beginning the period of private spaceflight. Communications Satellite Act of 1962 opened the way to commercial consortia owning and operating their own satellites, although these were still launched on state-owned launch vehicles.
The first phase of private space operation was the launch of the first commercial communications satellites. History of full private space transportation includes early efforts by Germany OTRAG company in the 20th century and numerous modern projects of orbital and suborbital launch systems in the 21st century.