XCOR: Economy Class Space Tourism?

by Nancy Atkinson on March 26, 2008

Lynx.  Image credit:  XCOR
XCOR Aerospace has thrown its hat into the space tourism ring, unveiling its two-seat suborbital spaceship, the Lynx. With its first flights scheduled for 2010, XCOR’s projected price per ticket will be half of what other suborbital companies like Virgin Galactic and Rocketplane are charging. But the Lynx’s flight will also be about half the duration and about two-thirds the altitude of the other companies. At $100,000, a seat on the Lynx is not exactly cheap, but its possible this lower price could cause a price war with the other space tourism companies, which is good news for anyone considering taking a suborbital flight.

“XCOR’s mission is to radically lower the cost of spaceflight, because affordable access to space for everyone means far more than breathtaking views and the freedom of weightlessness,” said XCOR CEO Jeff Greason.

The spaceship, roughly the size of a small private airplane, will be capable of flying several times each day. The Lynx will carry a pilot and one passenger at twice the speed of sound to about 60 km (37 miles) above the Earth. The entire flight would last about a half an hour, with 2 minutes of zero gravity. It will take off and land like an airplane at a conventional airport, and use clean-burning, fully reusable, liquid-fuel rocket engines to reach Mach 2.

“We have designed this vehicle to operate much like a commercial aircraft. Its liquid fuel engines will provide the enhanced safety, durability, reliability and maintainability that keep operating costs low,” said Greason. “These engines will also minimize the impact of these flights on the environment. They are fully reusable, burn cleanly, and release fewer particulates than solid fuel or hybrid rocket motors.”

“Lynx will be the ‘Greatest Ride Off Earth,’” said XCOR test pilot, former NASA astronaut and Space Shuttle commander, Col. Rick Searfoss. “The acceleration, the weightlessness, and the view will provide you with an experience that is out of this world. And the best part of it all is that you’ll ride right up front, like a co-pilot, instead of in back, like cargo.”

Here’s XCOR’s You Tube video for a preview of what the flight will be like:

XCOR also announced that the company has won Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II contract with the US Air Force to develop and test operationally responsive features of one of the firm’s commercial vehicles.

For more about XCOR.

Original News Source: XCOR Press Release

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Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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