so many misconceptions. So little time.
Yes this does look like Orion Lite to be launched on one of the ULA launchers It will have to be lite as Orion was too heavy for either Delta IV or Atlas V. However as these EELV were developed under USAF contract for satellite launch they were designed to a safety factor of 1.25 (Flight loads can be 25% above design loads and it will not break) while NASA specifies SF of 1.4 (40% above design loads). At present *only* spaceX has a *launcher* designed to the crew rating level.
US commercial airline traffic started AFAIK in the late 20s, early 30s. Note it was one of the target markets of the DC3, which dates from roughly 1935. Even then no none commissioned a new all metal aircraft design without a substantial market expectation.
Commercial spaceflight in the US will *not* be "unregulated." In point of fact it *is* regulated already through the FAA. Passengers are *not* astronauts, they are "Spaceflight participants" so are not expected to do a 3 year training programme. That's important as NASA *could* issues a waiver on the safety factor to let humans launch on satellite launch vehicles. Weather FAA *could* or are so inclined to do so is less certain.
And then there is the single engine design of the launchers (ever noticed that no one flies a commercial scheduled single engined transatlantic passenger aircraft across the Atlantic?)
NB for a capsule with escape rocket multiple engines are belt-and-braces safety features but for a satellite launcher that single engine failure means bye bye satellite, hello insurance claim (you did get it insured didn't you?)
The situation in the UK *seems* to be linked into the CAA but it's unclear if they would green light *any* vertical launch system.
I *strongly* doubt FAA will permit children in the early stages.
Early fliers will be subject to *significant* risks. However so are people who do other *risk *holidays like climbing mount Everest (which routinely kills a few people who do it every *decade*, if not every year), bathysphere trips to several miles below the surface of the sea, and flight in Russian supersonic aircraft. Not to mention the current state of the art, a trip to the ISS.
How fast those risks stop being *real* will depend on the development road maps of the vehicles that fly. with no "engine out" designs like Atlas and Delta that crew escape system had *better* work. NB Good expendables (those whose design is *not* changed every flight) have roughly a 1 in 20 failure rate. Which begs the question if Apollo had continued would there have been a loss of crew accident. Note this failure rate is *totally* unacceptable in *any* other transport mode.
Interestingly all these vehicles have the option (for the first time since Titan) to offer *intact* abort, where a 2nd stage failure *could* be handled by 1st stage throttle down and pouring the 2nd stage propellants into it to burn them off and lower final velocity (that picked up in the fall back to Earth) before crashing back to Earth behind the mother of all air bags.
Boeing have a *perceived* pedigree in this field.
In reality predecessor company North American and Grumman built the crew carrying free flying bits of Apollo, Boeing and predecessor company Douglas built 2 of the stages.
40 years ago. How well they do depends on how well they captured the data (including the decisions as to why some things were *not* done a certain way) because *very* few senior people will still be alive from that era.
Can they develop it more like SpaceX or will it be the govt con-tractor dance? Federal Procurement Regs or commercial practice? Commercial practice got McDonald Douglas to build DC-X (circa single stage to M3 and back) in 18 months for <$65m. I won't quote SpaceX again as that is an unfair comparison. FPR gets you X33 (No flights, just parts) over $1.1Bn over most of a decade.
People have questioned an in service date of 2014. This is *not* unreasonable (actually I'd call it pretty generous), given Boeing's *heavy* involvement with Orion and the Orion crew escape rocket (the pacing item according to SpaceX for a crewed vehicle) has already been tested.
However that depends on what mods to be built into Atlas or Delta (or rather their productiong lines) to bring them up to acceptable spec. IIRC LockMart said they would make dual redundant flight computers standard for *all* their launches as good business to improve reliability.
Biglows intention is to move from space *travel* to space *tourism*. He thinks big and he wants to make money at this. It's a sad fact of the human race that *very* few want to *have* an adventure, but they quite like a package holiday. Making space *less* heroic is *key* to getting more people into space and getting people to think that space is a place, *not* a programme.
When history is written perhaps Biglow will win the "DD Harriman" award. I'd be *very* surprised if his people are not talking to SpaceX on some level. Such large eggs, so few baskets.
Yes, it's anorak.