The field of commercial suborbital spaceflight will get a rare moment in the Capitol Hill spotlight today when the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee’s space subcommittee will hold a hearing titled “The Emerging Commercial Suborbital Reusable Launch Vehicle Market” at 2 pm EDT; the hearing will be webcast. The hearing features representatives of three suborbital vehicle developers: George Whitesides, president and CEO of Virgin Galactic; Andrew Nelson, COO of XCOR Aerospace; and Brett Alexander, director of business development and strategy for Blue Origin. Also at the hearing are Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute and Stephan R. McCandliss of Johns Hopkins, talking about the research potential of suborbital vehicles, and Carissa Christensen of the Tauri Group, talking about her company’s latest assessment of suborbital markets.
The hearing charter primarily provides an overview of the emerging suborbital industry. The “overarching questions” section suggests that the hearing will primarily be an information-gathering one for the committee, learning more about suborbital companies and markets, as well as the industry’s relationship with its primary regulator, the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST).
Tied to the hearing is the release by FAA/AST of the report “Suborbital Reusable Vehicles: A 10-Year Forecast of Market Demand”, prepared by the Tauri Group and funded jointly by FAA/AST and Space Florida. The report measures demand in “seat/cargo equivalents” to accommodate both crew and cargo suborbital flights. The report’s baseline forecast calls for growth in demand from 373 seat/cargo equivalents in the first year of regular vehicle operations to 533 in the 10th year.