Lockheed Martin, developer of NASA's new manned spacecraft, the Orion crew exploration vehicle, will not develop a capsule for space tourism before 2015 at least.
The company has been in talks with Nevada-based Bigelow Aerospace, which plans to have a habitable orbital complex in orbit by 2012.
Bigelow Aerospace is interested in using Lockheed's Atlas V rocket to launch a capsule to the orbital complex.
NASA associate administrator for exploration systems Scott Horowitz says that the agency will accept use of Orion systems for commercial ventures (Flight International, 12-18 December 2006).
Lockheed Space System's human spaceflight vice-president and general manager John Karas says: "We would be ready to use derivatives of Orion subsystems for a capsule for space tourism after Orion is delivered."
He adds that "five or six" transport concepts had been discussed with Bigelow, and that the use of the Atlas V is still "possible".
The block one Orion, for transporting six astronauts to the International Space Station, is expected to begin operations in 2015.
A block two lunar version would carry four astronauts, and NASA plans a return to the Moon by 2020.
Lockheed has analysed space tourism, for "probably 20 years", according to Karas, and the company's position is that it is still too premature a market for the government contractor to enter.