Reflections and Summary

  • Howard E. McCurdy
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Science and Technology book series (PSHST)


In the final chapter, McCurdy summarizes the main lessons contained in the early history of commercial space flight. Space travel is capital intensive and requires large outlays of cash long in advance of returns. To launch an independent space transportation business, private sources of investment capital are typically insufficient. Yet government support is not always necessary to supplement the shortfall. McCurdy argues that philanthropic entrepreneurs, incentive prizes and legacy investors can be effective substitutes for government help. New space entrepreneurs launched their firms with the aim of escaping the more restrictive aspects of government control. The firms demonstrated their capacity for innovation. Now that human flights in private spacecraft are set to begin, events will test the ability of business firms to sustain safe and relatively inexpensive flight. McCurdy concludes by reviewing the large number of new space companies that failed or disappeared. Failure is very much an option and an important force behind commercial space innovation, but for the movement to succeed, a few outstanding entries need to prevail.


Viability of space capitalism Failure rates Cost of space flight Private investment Innovation Government and philanthropic support 

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Howard E. McCurdy
    • 1
  1. 1.American UniversityWashington, DCUSA

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