A source familiar with the investigation says a satellite system was getting pings from the plane long after its last reported contact with controllers. The jet and 239 people disappeared a week ago.
NASA is increasingly reliant on private contractors to get goods to and from space. Here are four ways the rich are trying to get richer in the final frontier:
1. Transportation: SpaceX has a launch set for March 16 to supply the International Space Station. NASA now depends on private firms to ferry stuff up to the astronauts on the station.
2. Space Tourism: Virgin Galactic says it may be able to launch its suborbital space tourism operation later this year. Tickets for a flight aboard Virgin's SpaceShipTwo cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Still, Virgin Galactic is already booked up for years.
3. Asteroid Mining: Some investors want to get into the mining of asteroids. It hasn't been done, but it would involve building some sort of platform on an asteroid, then scooping out valuable platinum, iron and cobalt.
4. Garbage Collection: There's a lot of space junk out there. It's moving fast, and it can do some serious damage to a passing spacecraft. Now there's research on Pacman-like space vehicles that could "eat" the space garbage.