The commercial space company XCOR announced today that the travel company RocketShip Tours will begin selling suborbital rides on XCOR’s two-seater spacecraft, the Lynx. And get this: the price for the ticket has actually been lowered from the original estimates. $95,000 USD will get you a seat right up front, next to XCOR pilot and former space shuttle commander Rick Searfoss, for a 30 minute ride to the edge of space. XCOR decided early on not to sell the tickets themselves directly to consumers, but instead offer wholesale packages to adventure travel companies, which will set the price for customers. Jules Klar, founder of Phoenix, AZ-based RocketShip Tours, said in today’s press conference that the price includes the “complete and total experience” that incorporates a 5-day program of briefings, medical evaluations, test flights on aircraft to test for g-forces and claustrophia before going on the real flight on the Lynx.
2010 is XCOR’s target for their first test flights of the Lynx. The flight plan has the Lynx taking off horizontally like an airplane from the Mojave spaceport runway, but quickly going vertical and shooting up to 61 kilometers (37 miles) above the Earth, and coasting at apogee for over 4 minutes of a microgravity environment and a spectacular view of our planet. Then the vehicle heads into re-entry, putting passengers through a maximum of 4 G’s at pullout, then gliding and circling back to the runway where it all started. The flight lasts 30 minutes.
At today’s press conference, Andrew Nelson, COO of XCOR Aerospace, said the beginning of ticket sales is an important milestone for XCOR, and a monumental opportunity for people to realize their dreams of flying to space.
Nelson said that they already have presold 22 tickets, and the first commercial passenger on the Lynx will be Danish investment banker Per Wimmer. “I am going to fly aboard the Lynx because I want to experience space from a front row seat,” said Wimmer. He has already earned a reputation as a pioneering adventurer. He recently made the first tandem skydive over Mt. Everest, (check out his website www.wimmerspace.com. Wimmer, who uses his adventures to promote various charities, says, “My goal is to place the Dannebrog, the Danish flag, on the Moon one day. Flying to the edge of space aboard the Lynx will make me the first Dane to experience suborbital space flight and takes me one step closer to my ultimate goal.”
“What a life-changing experience it will be,” said XCOR test pilot, and former space shuttle commander, Col. Rick Searfoss in an earlier intervew, “to come screaming off the Mojave Desert, home of the most amazing flight test projects the world has ever seen, and climb vertically through the same airspace where humans first went supersonic, all the way to the edge of space and beyond. And the best part of it all is that you’ll ride right up front.”
So, if you’re looking for an unusual holiday gift for the person who has everything, check out RocketShip Tours. A deposit of $20,000 begins the process of assigning the participant to the qualification program. Klar said one does not have to be an athlete to fly aboard the Lynx, but the procedure will include a medical questionnaire and a screening performed by qualified aeronautic physicians. Instruction regarding life support systems, flight physiology, and other aspects of the Lynx suborbital flight will also be provided. “We want to ensure the experience is as safe as possible and that people are adequately trained and prepared.”
“Since this is a suborbital launch, training will require familiarization with the spacesuit and what will be experienced while sitting in the cockpit.” Klar said. “We will provide deluxe accommodations for all those who share in ‘The Right Stuff’ experience we offer and become part of this historic stage in the evolution of human space flight.”
“After the flight is concluded, participants will receive an HD DVD recording of their flight experience as well as other mementos,” Klar said.
While not exactly cheap, XCOR’s price is less than half of Virgin’s $200,000 price tag and extremely competitive with Rocketplane’s price of $250,000 per passenger. XCOR won’t fly as high as the other commercial space companies, but XCOR provides the up-front, fighter-pilot feel with an extremely “personal” personal spaceflight experience — the passenger and the pilot are the only ones on board.
Sources: XCOR press release, Cover It Live (Courtesy Jeff Foust)