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]


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 declines to take Rule 34 to space – suborbital sex movies delayed

Paul Raven @ 03-10-2008

Virgin Galactic logoSay what you like about Richard Branson, but the man’s got standards and he sticks to ’em. One of those standards would appear to be not corrupting his brands with what some punters might consider to be unsavoury business… at least that’s my guess after hearing that Virgin Galactic have declined an up-front offer of US$1 million cash to film the first* zero-G pr0n movie on SpaceShipTwo.

Who says ethics and entrepreneurship are incompatible, eh? Looks like Rule 34 as applied to zero-G will have to rely on camera tricks and cartoons for a while longer. [via SlashDot]

[ * – Well, the first one featuring humans, at least. ]


New ESA/Russian manned spacecraft pictures!

Tom James @ 23-07-2008

Check out the Soyuz capsule replacement and conceptual artwork here.

One of the most unusual features about the capsule appear to be the thrusters and landing gear on its underside. Mr Zak said it would use these engines to soften its landing on Earth after the fiery re-entry through our atmosphere.

It’s interesting how the national space agencies seem to see the future in rockets, rather than space planes, for space exploration.

What with the Space Shuttle being retired in 2010, and with a possible alternative European plan for a manned version of the ATV called Jules Verne, as well as the American Ares V rockets planned for use in Project Constellation, it seems it’s no longer de rigueur to build spaceplanes unless you’re a private space tourism company.

[story from BBC News]


Virgin astronauts to undergo centrifuge training

Paul Raven @ 03-09-2007

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwoSpace tourism tickets are pretty pricey – partly because you’re not just paying for the flight itself, but a whole bunch of extras too. Wired reports that the first hundred people scheduled to head into sub-orbital space on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo are heading to Philadelphia for preliminary training sessions in centrifuges to get them accustomed to the G-forces of launch and reentry. I am insanely jealous.