Archive for the ‘space tourism’ Category

Spaceflights now for sale; scary part is price

November 14, 2007

Virgin Galactic continues to get great media coverage across the world from articles similar to this in today’s Seattle Post Intelligencer:

Considering space travel on one of Virgin Galactic’s new ships?

The sales pitch goes like this: The first hour will be relatively painless, a graceful ascent in a spaceship attached to a mother ship. Once the vessels reach 50,000 feet, the ship containing you, five more tourists and two pilots will detach and fall for a moment.

Then, the thrusters will propel it up for 90 seconds, traveling three times the speed of sound. All of the spacecraft’s fuel will burn away, leaving its tanks empty.

The G-forces on your body will push your blood toward your feet. It is hoped that you won’t black out, but if you do, you’ll come to when you’re at zero gravity.

Once above the undefined line that delineates Earth from space, your craft will arch to a height of 360,000 feet for about four minutes. You will be weightless and have stunning views of Earth’s curvature, 1,000 miles in any direction.

And then gravity will beckon the vessel down to Earth, the human bodies within it feeling pressure six times their weight, sort of like a “big, hairy, fat cat sitting on your chest.”

Total approximate time: two hours and nine minutes. All this for only $200,000 — a lot of money to most folks, but a mere fraction of the millions spent by previous space tourists.

Space tourism gets a boost from a hands-off FAA

October 17, 2007

A mock-up of the cabin in Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo is on display at the Science Museum in London. In the latest space race — to lift paying customers out of Earth’s atmosphere — aviation safety regulators occupy a new niche: They are promoting an industry expected to suffer deadly accidents instead of applying strict safety rules.

Federal Aviation Administration officials detailed their unique relationship with the emerging space-tourism industry for a gathering of air and space lawyers this month.

Several firms are racing to serve people willing to pay a steep price for the privilege of floating briefly in space, perhaps in as little as two years. Some scientists believe commercial competition will fuel rapid development of space travel technology.

In the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004, Congress told the FAA to treat the industry more like an adventure business than an air carrier. The law protects the rights of those who wish to be among the first private citizens to go into space — likening them to visionaries and adventurers who knowingly take other risks like climbing mountains — while giving the people who operate the new types of unproven spacecraft the scientific latitude to learn from their first fatal mistakes.

Source:  USA Today

Virgin Galactic: Flights ‘still a few years away’

October 11, 2007

Virgin Galactic, Sir Richard Branson’s planned “space tourism” operation, has admitted that it is “still a few years away from operations”.

The company’s COO has suggested that work is at a standstill pending the outcome of health-and-safety investigations into the fatal explosion earlier this year at the Mojave facilities of Scaled Composites, where Branson’s rocketships are being developed.

The SpaceShip Twos, like their forerunner, will not be able to achieve orbit. However, they will be able to carry their wealthy thrillseeker passengers on brief ballistic arcs outside the Earth’s atmosphere, during which they will experience weightlessness and dazzling views.

The first hundred tickets – at $200k each – sold fast, and flights were planned to commence in 2008. The New Mexico state government also has coughed up $31m to build a new desert spaceport, designed by Norman Foster, from which the Virgin Galactic fleet will operate.

Full article:  The Register

The Granddaddy of Space Colonization?

October 8, 2007

Discover Magazine spoke to Burt Rutan about his inspiration for SpaceShipOne and what SpaceShipTwo passengers can expect to get for their money.  Here are some of the interesting questions and answers:

What will a trip in SpaceShipTwo be like for a passenger?
Well, my job is not going to be running a spaceline or selling tickets or flying. My job is to build a spaceship that is affordable and safe enough to fly the public. We are working very hard to optimize the experience, because if you don’t give people the best experience, they will go somewhere else for their spaceflight.  Some of the things we have talked about are that the ships will be large with large windows. It will be a large cabin. The details on how that’s done we will be proving in test flights. I wouldn’t be surprised if at that time we discovered other features that would add to the experience.

How will private spaceflight succeed as an industry?
Not by making [private] spaceflight twice as safe as government spaceflight, or 10 times as safe, but 100 or 600 times as safe. By 1931, after a few years’ experience of flying scheduled airlines, those planes were operating at roughly 600 times the safety of the space shuttle. I look at safety not in terms of fatalities per passenger-mile, but when you get in and close the door, what is the risk Image descriptionImage descriptionof dying on this flight? In 1931, for commercial airlines the risk was 1 in 33,000. For manned spacecraft it has been about 1 in 70. I believe that to have an expanding business that won’t be hindered by people’s fear of flying you have to be as safe as the airliners.

What will spaceflight look like a century from now?
A century is a relatively short period of time. Let me stick my neck out a little bit further and say that in 300 or 400 years, a large majority of people will go to a planet and not return back to the Earth. We will colonize. Lewis and Clark went out and back. But most of the people who followed them went to California and stayed there. In a hundred years, I believe you will see such an enormous reduction in the costs of transportation around our solar system that there will be a lot of travel. I’d like to see affordable transportation into space in my lifetime.

Read the whole thing here.  Good stuff.

He’s over the moon about space tourism

October 8, 2007

CEO Eric Anderson's Space Adventures isn't your ordinary adventure-travel company.

Either selling outer-space vacations to wealthy business moguls is easy or Eric Anderson’s a superb salesman.

Just 33, Anderson is CEO of the decade-old company Space Adventures, a Northern Virginia-based firm that sells space trips aboard Russian spacecraft to extremely rich private citizens.

The price: $30 million to $40 million, depending on details of the trip. He’s been the middleman in all five deals in which the Russians have delivered a tourist to the International Space Station and returned them safely.

When he first started the venture, he said while traveling here recently on business, “Everyone said, ‘You’re crazy.’ ” But Anderson’s dad, a real estate entrepreneur, taught him to never take no for an answer, and he hasn’t.

“I’m the only one who can get you a trip into space,” he says while hurtling through Boston streets in a limousine on his way to speak at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Source:  USA Today

Our first real peek at the Rocket Racer

October 2, 2007

As part of the story in today’s L.A. Times about Mojave, the paper published this photo of the still-in-development Rocket Racer, which will fly in the Rocket Racing League. 

I’ve got to say, for the first time I’m actually excited about the league.  For one, the vehicle looks like a cross between the Star Wars X-Wing fighter and the U.S.’s F-15.  Very cool. 

Although we’ve seen the concept photos and Mark-1 development vehicle, this is the first real glimpse of what the Xcor Aerospace racer will look like.   

This month, Xcor plans to test fly the vehicle for the first time, with the hopes of having an inaugural “NASCAR in the sky” race next year.  Here’s hoping the league gets off the ground.

Mojave: Edge of the final frontier

October 2, 2007

MOJAVE — Stuart Witt, a former test pilot who runs the airport in this weathered desert town, was working at his desk when he heard the explosion.

“I turned and looked out the window,” said Witt, 54. “There was a trace of dust in the air over by the east-side test area.”

His assistant suggested it was a sonic boom, a frequent occurrence in the desert airspace near Edwards Air Force Base.

But Witt knew better. Sonic booms come in pairs. This was one loud explosion, so powerful it was heard in Palmdale, 30 miles away.

The blast, which killed three men and injured three others, occurred during a fuel-flow test in July at Scaled Composites, the famed aerospace company that is building a suborbital rocket plane for Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic space line.

For this desert hamlet of 3,700, located, as they say, “a full tank of gas and a full bladder north of Los Angeles,” it was a space-age wake-up call.

Fifty years after the Soviets launched the satellite Sputnik 1 into space, Mojave has found itself at the center of a private space race that boosters say is as important — and risky — as the nationalistic race between the Soviets and the United States.

Source:  Los Angeles Times

Europe’s Bold Entry into Space Tourism

September 27, 2007

EADS rocketplane design

Your ride to space may not come from a scrappy startup after all.

In June, the Astrium division of the behemoth European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), after Boeing the largest aerospace company in the world, released its own design for a small tourist spaceship.

If it looks familiar, you’ve been paying attention: The design is basically a copy of the Rocketplane XP, a converted business jet that’s being built by the small Oklahoma company Rocketplane.

Two years ago, managers and engineers at EADS Astrium sat down to examine the business case for a suborbital tourist ship. They looked at the main concepts under development by the start-ups, including SpaceShipOne‘s midair launch from a carrier plane and Armadillo Aerospace’s vertical-takeoff-and-landing rocket.

Source:  Popular Science

First peek at spaceport set today

September 4, 2007

A first look at what designers have in mind for Spaceport America will be unveiled today during a morning news conference at New Mexico State University.

The San Francisco firm URS and a British outfit, Foster+Partners, recently beat out several other teams for the rights to design the terminal and hangar which will serve as the headquarters for anchor tenant Virgin Galactic.

Though the architectural renderings are not final, they will give a glimpse as to what direction the spaceport design may take.

The $198 million project in southern Sierra County is scheduled to break ground next year and will open some time in 2009 or 2010.

Source:  Las Cruces Sun-News

Also, ABC station in New Mexico has good video story here

3 killed, 3 injured in explosion at rocket test site in Mojave

July 27, 2007

Three workers were killed and three others were badly hurt Thursday afternoon in an explosion on the edge of Kern County’s Mojave airport during the test of a propellant system for a pioneering private spaceship.

The blast occurred at a private test site run by Scaled Composites, a company founded by high-profile aviation entrepreneur Burt Rutan.

In June 2004, the firm became the first business to launch a reusable manned rocket into space, a craft known as SpaceShip One.

Thursday’s explosion — whose sound was likened to a 500-pound bomb by a mechanic working several hundred yards away — is believed to have been caused by an undetermined operating flaw that ignited a tank of nitrous oxide.

Source: Los Angeles Times