NASA’s hiring of SpaceX in September to build spacecraft opens the door for potential entrants into the space exploration industry. Boeing had previously been the only company hired by NASA to build spacecraft for specific missions (Boeing and Lockheed Martin are contracted by the military to build rockets, most of which launch satellites into orbit), and thus had a monopoly in the industry.
If NASA is willing to hire one private company for space exploration missions, why should it not be open to hiring others? Of course, there are significant barriers to entry in the industry, the biggest of which is upfront costs. Designing and building a rocket that can reach space is no easy task, and it requires a lot of time and money. This can be mitigated somewhat by government funding, but it is difficult to be funded without first demonstrating capability and success in the field. A second barrier to entry is the limited demand for space exploration. Currently only a handful of national governments are funding the industry, although, companies like SpaceX hope to man private flights into space as an extreme “recreational” activity. Of course, such flights would be unaffordable for all but the wealthiest. However, prices will begin to decline as more firms enter the market, creating competition, and technology/innovation reduce manufacturing costs.