Thursday, March 27, 2008

Space Tourism

The space tourism market seems to really be heating up. So far, most of the press has gone to Virgin Galactic, the high-profile company launched by Sir Richard Branson. They recently unveiled their design for SpaceShipTwo, pictured above. Branson is working with Burt Rutan, who built SpaceShipOne, which won the Ansari X-Prize in 2004. Rutan won the $10 million prize by building a vehicle that flew twice in a two week period to an altitude greater than 100 km, which is generally regarded as the edge of space.

There are other companies planning to offer suborbital joyrides, of course. But one of the more credible efforts was announced just yesterday by XCOR Aerospace, a small company that has been building rocket engines and rocket planes for almost ten years. Yesterday they revealed their plans for the Lynx (above), a two seater rocket plane that will fly from an ordinary runway on rocket power and climb to 61 km. They have even received some funding from the Air Force, which is interested in encouraging the development of technologies that make it easier to get into space and back routinely and on short notice.

You can already buy a ticket from Virgin Galactic, although not yet from XCOR. The price? Only $200,000! Well, yeah, did I mention you better be rich if you want to fly in space? They say the prices will come down, though. :-)


Pendrax said...

I saw this the other day and thought to myself how much I'd love to actually be able to go into space. I think I've spent most of my life reading about people who lived and worked in space. Here it is, right on the horizon! I've not bought the right stocks over the years, so I imagine I'll be watching the TV coverage and reading my stories. Oh, well.

Bill Hensley said...

One of the speakers at the Space Access conference going on right now mentioned that the actual energy cost to put a person in low earth orbit is only $76. Naturally, any real vehicle would not be 100% efficient, but it's still evident that the main cost is not the energy but the machine itself, and all the people and equipment necessary to maintain and operate it. So there really is a significant chance that it might get much cheaper some years into the future. And the XCOR Lynx is expected to be cheaper than Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo right from the start. Only $100,000!