The following is a timeline of important events in the history of private spaceflight, including important technical as well as legislative and political advances. Though the industry has its origins in the early 1960s, soon after the beginning of the Space Age, private companies did not begin conducting launches into space until the 1980s, and it was not until the 21st century that multiple companies began privately developing and operating launch vehicles and spacecraft in earnest.
1975 – OTRAG, the first company to attempt private development and manufacture of space propulsion systems, is founded in Stuttgart, Germany, though its program is ultimately abandoned in the early 1980s.
29 March 1989 – Starfire, a repurposed Black Brantsounding rocket launched by Space Services Inc., is the first rocket to launch with a commercial launch license from the Office of Commercial Space Transportation.
First launch of the Pegasus rocket, from a NASA-owned B-52.
November 1995 – The Office of Commercial Space Transportation is transferred to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), becoming the FAA Associate Administrator for Space Transportation, or FAA/AST.
13 May 1998– HGS-1, a communications satellite operated at the time by Hughes Global Services Inc., becomes the first commercial spacecraft to visit the Moon, after flying to within 6,200 km of the lunar surface on a free return trajectory in order to salvage it from an unusable orbit.
23 December 2004 – President George W. Bush signs the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004, which provides a basic legal framework for commercial human spaceflight. It also creates the so-called “learning period,” a temporary restriction on the FAA's ability to regulate the private spaceflight industry, which has since been extended multiple times.
12 July 2006 – A Russian-Ukrainian Dnepr rocket launches Genesis I, an experimental inflatable space habitat developed and owned by Bigelow Aerospace that is the first inflatable habitat module to reach orbit.
8 December 2010 – SpaceX successfully launches and recovers its Dragon capsule on its first mission, marking the first time a privately developed and operated spacecraft is recovered from orbit.
25 May 2012 – The second mission of SpaceX's Dragon capsule completes a successful rendezvous and berthing with the International Space Station, making it the first private spacecraft to do so.
May–July 2014 – A private initiative known as the ISEE-3 Reboot Project successfully contacts and takes control of NASA's defunct ISEE-3 space probe with support from NASA and the Arecibo Observatory, making them the first private group to command a spacecraft in deep space, though their plans to change the probe's orbit are abandoned weeks later when its thrusters fail to respond properly.
23 November 2015 – Blue Origin successfully launches its New Shepard launch system into space and lands it vertically, making it the first VTVL rocket to land on Earth from space.
25 November 2015 – President Barack Obama signs the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, also known as the Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act or SPACE Act of 2015, which codifies the ability of American companies to own material resources extracted in outer space.
22 January 2016– Blue Origin successfully launches and lands the same New Shepard booster flown in November, making it the first VTVL rocket to reach space twice.
30 March 2017– SpaceX successfully launches and lands the first stage of a Falcon 9 that had previously flown in April 2016, making it the first VTVL rocket to be used on two orbital flights.
13 July 2017– The Luxembourg Chamber of Deputies adopts a law guaranteeing companies the right to own resources extracted in space, making Luxembourg the first European nation to do so.
21 January 2018 – American aerospace company Rocket Lab successfully launched its Electron rocket from Mahia Launch Center on January 21, 2018 carrying three cubesats into low earth orbit. This was the first time that a rocket entered orbit after launching from a privately owned and operated spaceport.
6 February 2018– SpaceX successfully launches their new Rocket "Falcon Heavy," the world's most powerful rocket currently in operation, on its first test flight and manages to land two of the three Boosters upright.
11 April 2019– SpaceX successfully launches a Falcon Heavy with its first paid commercial satellite and lands all three boosters - two at Landing Zone - 1 at Cape Canaveral and one in the Atlantic Ocean on drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You."
30 May 2020– SpaceX successfully launches a Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Crew Demo space capsule during the Demo-2 mission, marking the first crewed orbital mission to space on a commercial spacecraft. The booster was recovered on the drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You."