From the launch of the Sputnik satellite on October 4, 1957, through the end of 2008, approximately ## orbital launches have occurred. These missions carried some ten thousand satellites, experiments, probes, landers, and other spacecraft on trajectories ranging from Earth orbit to missions beyond our solar system.
Long-range missiles travel through space, reaching apogees of 950-1100 kilometers, or about five times the altitude of what is generally considered the threshold of low Earth orbit. Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) and Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBM) are intended to carry a warhead, typically nuclear, as a payload on a suborbital ballistic trajectory. In the United States, ICBMs fall under the purview of U.S. Air Force Space Command. Funding for their maintenance and operation falls within the major force program for DoD space spending.
The FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA/AST) and the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) prepare an annual forecast of global demand for commercial launch services. COMSTAC is a group of senior executives from space transportation, satellite, and government organizations.
China has announced plans to develop the Long March 5 heavy rocket.
Japan plans to replace the former M-V launch vehicle, which was active as recently as 2006, with an advanced solid rocket.
The European Space Agency is developing a small launch vehicle, Vega, which will be operated by Arianespace.
India is developing a heavy lift launch vehicle, the GSLV Mk-III, with a test flight planned in 2009 or 2010.
The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) 2008 U.S. Commercial Space Transportation Developments and Concepts: Vehicles, Technologies, and Spaceports report notes that a variety of orbital vehicles, shown in Exhibit 3f, are currently in development. Vehicles are classified by type either as expendable launch vehicles (ELV) or reusable launch vehicles (RLV). Please note that the FAA lists the Falcon 1 as developmental, even though it has been declared operational by its manufacturer. The vehicles in the upper portion of the exhibit have initial launch dates under contract.
“Despite the strong barriers to entry that prevail in the industry, some daring entrepreneurs are nevertheless attempting to challenge incumbents. The entry of low-cost launchers such as the Space Exploration Technology (SpaceX) Falcon-1 and Falcon-5, offered at USD 6 million and USD 12 million respectively, may…”
Space Services Inc. of Houston, Texas, offers memorial spaceflights, launching a symbolic portion of a person’s cremated remains into space. These memorials are a small secondary payload on a commercial or scientific satellite launch. Space Services offers Earth return services, Earth orbit services, lunar services, and Voyager (deep space) services.