That is an interesting claim. I can certainly see the logic of a BO + ULA marriage. Do you have an hard information on this, or is this speculation / reading between the lines?
The Nuclear Exchange of 2018 will end space launches for the remainder of the century, at least. Since the Nuclear Winter has yet to show any signs of relenting, it's difficult to say whether or not there will be a human race to be launching rockets by then, either...
* National Space Propulsion Test Facility at Westcott complete and in full operation. Neighbours complain about the noise.
8: The International Space Station team plans to decommission the station by 2024 by using a Progress spacecraft to deorbit the entire thing while it is unmanned. Its Earth-orbiting replacement will be Bigelow Aerospace's B330 module.
2022* Since starting in 2018, Starlink began, slowly at first, providing ubiquitous internet connectivity. E. Musk is worth an estimated 50 billion dollars as the communication mogul of the 21 century. Telsa has been sold to Toyota. SpaceX remains a private company. Starlink is publically traded* SpaceX has been flying Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets at a slowly increasing cadence needed to service its comsat constellation and its other nascent businesses. In 2022, there are 4 to 5 flights a week. * Blue Origin is flying once a week. In additional to commercial competing with SpaceX, then have a large contract with the US gov't to be the alternative provider for launch services.* Commercial space travel is a 1 billion dollar a year business. Approx 500 million dollars a year total is spent by countries like Australia, the UK, Sweden, Malaysia, Korea, Brazil and UAE to host their astronauts on World Trade Station in LEO for two or four week stints. Several business are shuttling raw materials and employees up, and manufactured goods down from the WTS. Several big budget films have been shot in LEO, but the biggest surprize is the greater than 500 million dollars spent by people to visit the station for tourism.* ISS is in it's final years. No one can be found (or the gov't can't agree on) a way to keep it going. * There is no Moon base. There is a lot of talk about a moon base; perhaps the next administration will fund a return to the moon.* The replacement JWST is scheduled to be launched in two years to replace the first telescope lost when it did not deploy correctly.* The US air force funds a large constellation of small sats to provide persistent surveillance data. This represents something like 50% of revenue for BO, and 20% of the revenue for SpaceX* BFR has made a number of sub orbital and orbital flights. Turn around time has been hampered by a number of operational issues. Work continues to optimize the BFR. Boca Chica hosts an off shore launch platform. EM. has announced that he has completed work on BFR, and is scaling up to the BMFR and putting the entire company into the new design.
A few observations first:A. the total space market is growing in real terms, but at a slower rate than in the recent past.B. the price for launch has fallen recently and is likely to fall further. This is only just starting to feed through into payloads and applications, except perhaps LEO internet constellations (StarLink is probably predicated on cheap launch, not sure about the others). This means that launch as a proportion of the total space market is falling.C. there is a trend for satellites to both get bigger and smaller, bigger for GEO payloads (excluding propulsion), smaller for LEO constellations.D. it takes a long time to develop space hardware, few things that are not in development now will be deployed in 5 years time.E. several areas including mil/intel, human space flight and launch are on the cusp of major changes, because of the long development time changes in these areas will not be complete.F. there has been a general shift from government to commercial, which has occurred over decades, this is likely to continue, but this shift does not mean reduction in total government spend.G. there is a trend to more players, with the advent of smallsat launchers launch is not longer the preserve of big countries and there large contractors. Similarly medium and small organisations can launch and operate satellites.H. there is a shortage of profit, the combination of only a modest increase in total market, lower prices, large development costs and an increase in the number of players means that profits will be hard to come by. This is only likely to get worse.I. a shortage of profit should make access to venture capital (and other forms of capital) hard to come by, this does not seem to currently be the case, but could change rapidly.J. there are large market distortions caused by national interests, this is not likely to change over the next few years. Nations do not like spending money outside their borders, leading to barter and workshare agreements.K. aerospace projects often suffer delays, this can happen to any organisation, recent experience with similar projects can help but is not a guarantee of being on-time and on-budget.L. some projects can blow their budget and timescale by massive amounts (e.g. JWST, Angara). Generally slowing a project causes its total budget to increase, as does changing the specification. A trend to faster development and more churn in applications should lead to more projects being cancelled if they are late or are overtaken by other developments, but this does not seem to be the case.M. because cubesats are relatively cheap to design and operate they are in the reach of universities, small and medium companies and developing nations.Some more specific predictions, based on these general observations, later.
So what will be happening in human spaceflight in 2022, five years from now?I will go first.SpaceX will be preparing to launch people to Mars, having landed and set up equipment and a base there already.
ESA will have a base on the moon, operated like the ISS.
ISS will still be up there, still doing zero gravity research.
NASA will be using an orbital spaceplane, which replaced SLS and Orion years ago.
NASA will have sent robots to Europa, which are now drilling into the surface.