December 3, 2008

Get Your Cheaper Ticket To Suborbital Space!

The world's first space tourism company, Virgin Galactic, met its first outer space obstacle on Tuesday when a competitor - XCOR Aerospace Inc - began offering half price tickets for suborbital rides.

XCOR also announced that it is partnering will long-time developer Jules Klar to sell rides on its Lynx spacecraft for $95,000.

The two-seat Lynx craft is still being developed by XCOR and will have its first test flight sometime in 2010. The company plans to take Danish investment banker Paul Wimmer on its first paid flight in early 2011.

The service is similar to that being offered by Virgin Galactic, which plans to operate the  privately developed spacecraft, SpaceShipOne.

SpaceShipOne, a manned suborbital spacecraft, was created by aircraft designer Burt Rutan and his company, Scaled Composites, to win a $10 million prize in 2004.

Currently Rutan is overseeing the development of a seven-person spacecraft called SpaceShipTwo for Virgin Galactic.  The company will offer zero-gravity flights aboard the craft for $200,000.

Virgin Galactic, which plans to begin test flights in 2009, already has deposits for over 200 passengers.

Passengers aboard XCOR's Lynx will share the cockpit with former space shuttle commander Richard Searfoss, a retired Air Force colonel and astronaut.

The trip will last less than 30 minutes and will go to an altitude of 38 miles, not quite high enough to enter Earth's orbit. 

According to Klar, the package also includes five nights at a luxury retreat where customers will be prepared for flight.

The passengers will experience nearly a minute of weightlessness, but will be belted in, wearing pressurized spacesuits, unlike Virgin Galactic.

"Flying with XCOR is going to be more like 'The Right Stuff,'" said Searfoss, referring to the Tom Wolfe book about NASA's Mercury Seven astronauts.

XCOR expects to make up to four flights a day.

The Lynx spacecraft works like an airplane, taking off and landing horizontally, eliminating the need for a launch pad.

"As long as you have good airspace and a 10,000-foot (3,033-meter) runway, you can fly them anywhere," said Douglas Graham, an XCOR spokesman.


Image Caption: Lynx Suborbital Vehicle


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