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It has been three years since the International Space Station was completed and made available for full-time use, or as full-time as possible given the demands of keeping its crew and hardware functioning in the harsh environment above the atmosphere. Now the shakeout appears to be over, and ISS managers seem to have found their way to relatively efficient use of the unique facility. More important, business types are starting to report early evidence that the terrestrial economy can indeed move into low Earth orbit—on the station and elsewhere.

“I think we absolutely have a market,” says John Olson, who helped shape government attempts to push the off-planet economy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, before moving on to a job as vice president of space systems with Sierra Nevada. “We’re truly starting to see an explosive demand pull as well as a supply push.”

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