Price wars… in spaaaaaace

Paul Raven @ 26-02-2009

A man floating in zero-gravity yesterday (no, not really)Proof, if such were needed, that one should always shop around to ensure you’re getting the best value deal: RocketShip Tours are entering the space tourism market with a bargain price tag.

Upstarts RocketShip Tours and XCOR Aerospace say that the price of their flights, slated to begin as soon as 2010, will be $95,000, about half that of the ones being offered by Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, which also hopes to launch as early as 2010.

“Our goal is to make space travel accessible and affordable to those who aspire to experience the ultimate adventure,’’ said Jules Klar, CEO and chairman of RocketShip in a statement.

I hadn’t expected to hear much out of the space tourism outfits in the current economic climate, but beating one’s own drum as the cheaper option is probably the only announcement that won’t gather a lynch mob outside your HQ. The Boston Globe article is painting RocketShip’s announcement as the start of a ‘price war’, but given that neither outfit has actually completed one of their proposed tourism flights yet I suspect it’s more of a PR war than anything else.

Assuming that flights to and from orbit become commonplace (come on, allow me some optimism here, it’s been a long week), can we assume that there’ll be a similar spread of service suppliers as there currently is in the air travel market? Would you really want to take a jaunt to LEO with the aerospace equivalent of Aeroflot?

All of a sudden, I have a vision of space hobos jagging free rides on orbital freighters to see the sights and maybe find a few month’s work… and I find myself rather liking the idea of being the Jack Kerouac of the space generation. Time to ease up on the Dexedrine, maybe. [image by markjsebastien]