Thursday, March 27, 2008
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. :-)