Sub-orbital tourism prices fall

Tom James @ 04-12-2008

Space tourism business RocketShip Tours offers 38 miles straight up into space for less than half the cost of Virgin Galactic‘s 62 miles. Hopefully this is the first of many tumbles down the supply demand curve towards mass market space tourism, from PhysOrg:

Per Wimmer, a Danish investment banker holds the first reservation for the Lynx sub-orbital flight expected to launch sometime in 2011.

Mr. Wimmer hedged his bet by plunking down the necessary reservation fee to Richard Branson´s Virgin Galactic and another rival for commercial space travel, Space Adventure. According to Wimmer, “It will be a real race to see which one goes up first”. The main difference between the XCOR Lynx is its ability to launch on any 10,000 foot runway with clear air space.

Just to remind us the future is nearly here, there is a computer generated (natch) video of what it’ll look like:

[via PhysOrg][image from Marxchivist on flickr]


Virgin Galactic unveils WhiteKnightTwo space-plane

Paul Raven @ 29-07-2008

I’m guessing that if you have any interest in commercial space travel, you’ve already had a bit of a swoon over the pictures of WhiteKnightTwo, the Virgin Galactic launch vehicle unveiled yesterday by Richard “Virgin” Branson and Burt “SpaceShipOne” Rutan.

Still, no one’s gonna object to me reposting one from the Wired coverage, I assume:

Richard Branson exiting the Virgin Galactic WhiteKnightTwo launch vehicle

Very pretty. I was disappointed to find that my press invite to the unveiling must have gotten lost in the mail*, but BoingBoing‘s own Xeni Jardin was there with a camera crew, and she’s promising video footage imminently, so I won’t miss out entirely.

In the meantime: Rutan and Branson in white shirts with no ties against a pale blue sky – could the Wired snapper have made those images any more simultaneously secular and messianic than they already are? And who does sensawunda PR work better than Branson, other than science fiction authors? Discuss.

[ * – The same thing happened to my VIP ComicCon passes and complementary Burning Man tickets, apparently. Meh. ]


Get hitched in sub-orbital space

Paul Raven @ 19-06-2008

Getting married is all about making your day as special as possible, right? Well, if you’ve got the cash and you don’t intend to tie the knot until 2011, you might want to think ahead and book your service with SpaceWedding, who promise to fly you to over 100km above the surface of the planet while you exchange your vows. [via Pink Tentacle] [image from SpaceWedding website]

Space Wedding logo

But, like I say, you’ll need a fairly hefty amount of money. The service costs the equivalent of US$2.2million … though that does include:

“… the cost of transportation to and from the launch site, accommodations, a live broadcast of the ceremony to friends and family at a reception hall on the ground, and 4 days of rehearsal.”

A bargain! If anyone needs a ring-bearer, drop me a line via the contact page, OK?


European company plans to mass-produce sub-orbital spaceplanes

Edward Willett @ 18-03-2008

EADS Astrium spaceplane in flight Astrium, the division of the European aerospace company EADS that makes the Ariane rocket, plans to mass-produce a commercial vehicle to take passengers on jaunts above the 100 km altitude that marks the edge of space. (Via BBC.)

Astrium’s market assessment suggests there would be 15,000 people a year willing to pay 200,000 euros for the trip, enough to support a production line turning about about 10 spaceplanes a year.

Robert Laine, CTO of EADS Astrium, announced while delivering the 99th Kelvin Lecture at the Institution of Engineering and Technology in London.

Astrium doesn’t intend to fly the craft itself, but supply them to companies that want to start up a space tourism business.

How far along are they? They’ve done wind-tunnel testing; and run the rocket engine for up to 31 seconds. The plan is for the four-passenger, single-pilot craft to take off using regular jet engines, climb to 12 km, then ignite the rocket to shoot straight up, climbing beyond 60 km in just 80 seconds, then riding its velocity to the 100 km level and beyond.Once it has re-entered the atmosphere, the jet engines take over again for the landing. (Watch an animation: I particularly like the opening text of “Until now, the closest you could get to your dream of travelling into space was to immerse yourself in a good science fiction novel…”)

Laine believes this is the first step toward super-fast intercontinental passenger transporters:

“Today we don’t know how to go to space cheaply. Being able to climb on a regular basis to 100km will give us the motivation to develop the plane that goes, not just up and down to the same place, but from here to the other side of the Earth.

“When the Ariane 5 takes off, 15 minutes later it is over Europe; and 45 minutes later it is over the Pacific. The fastest way is to go outside the atmosphere and that will be the future.”

I’d love to ride one of these things…but not for 200,000 euros. Give it time, though, and the price will surely come down.

(Image © EADS Astrium / images MasterImage 2007)

[tags]space travel, space tourism, aerospace, transportation[/tags]


Living in Space

Tomas Martin @ 10-11-2007

35mm pictures taken by Schmitt on the Apollo 17 missions
Space tourism is the big thing right now
, if you’re a multimillionaire looking to do something no-one else has done. Or alternatively it takes years to train to be an astronaut – if you qualify. Much of science fiction is dedicated to the thought of life outside Earth’s gravity well. Yet how easy would that be? Discover magazine lists 20 things you probably don’t know about Living In Space. It offers some handy tips to surviving in a vacuum (don’t hold your breath!) as well as some interesting facts about existing astronauts, who grow around two inches on average due to less pressure on their spines. It makes you wonder how many people will want to spend their holidays in zero-g.

[via Discover Magazine, image from Apollo 17 mission via Eric Hartwell’s Infodabble]


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