The launch of the Crew Dragon DM2 is often worded in a confusing way to the general public as the first commercial space launch. This Zapread post aims at putting this claim into some context.
The actual correct wording should be: the first commercially operated human orbital spaceflight launch. First of all, there is suborbital vs orbital space. Space kind of officially begins beyond 100 km altitude. Companies like Virgin Galactic are developing a Space Tourism service that would bring astronauts just over this treshold. Getting astronauts to actually orbit the Earth is a whole different ball game requiring much more potent rockets to reach an ISS altitude of 400 km and orbital velocity of 7.5 km/s. Secondly, commercial launches have been going on for many decades to put for example Telecom and Earth Observation satellites into orbit.
The table below shows the evolution of Human orbital spaceflight together with some characteristics to demonstrate, that the DM2 mission is 'just' a little step towards a more economically sound way of bringing astronauts to Space. The next step, with a private citizen astronaut that is paying for him/herself, on-board a rocket operated by a commercial entity, would be the next step in the evolution. At this moment, Yusaku Maezawa is the most likely person to bring this evolution further.
|Astronaut name||Date of launch||Astronaut status||Ground to Space operator||Paying entity||Destination owner|
|Yuri Gagarin||April 12, 1961||Civil servant||State||State||N/A (1 orbit)|
|Georgy Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov & Viktor Patsayev||June 6, 1971||Civil servant||State||State||State (Salyut-1)|
|Sergei Zalyotin & Alexander Kalery||April 4, 2000||Civil servant||State||Private||State (Mir)|
|Dennis Tito||April 28, 2001||Private citizen||State||Private||State (ISS)|
|Doug Hurley & Bob Behnken||May 30, 2020||Civil servant||Commercial (SpaceX)||State||State (ISS)|
|Yusaku Maezawa (planned)||2024||Private citizen||Commercial (SpaceX)||Private|
N/A (roundtrip moon)