Space tourism is set to blast off for real this year with the launch of the Virgin Galactic venture.
It seems Richard Branson is set to realise a long held dream of owning the first airline to a lunch a service into space. The British tycoon is planning a maiden voyage for his SpaceshipTwo (SS2), that will complete a 100km round trip along with another 120 space tourists all who have paid the $200,000 for the round trip.
So far the number of space tourists who have actually managed to experience zero gravity is seven. That’s six Americans and one Canadian, but this exclusive club looks set to expand to anyone who can stump up the relatively modest fee. There is set to be an explosion in the amount of options available for those wishing to go into space. As the Concorde broke new ground and the sound barrier in the 70’s the space shuttle for tourists represents the new frontier in luxury airline travel.
Space X is a private company that has been developing their own family of rocket called the Falcon and a capsule called Dragon which is capable of sending up seven people. Last year in May, an unmanned Falcon flew up a Dragon to successfully rendevouz with the International Space Station.
Boeing are currently in development of a programme of the CST-100 which looks very much like the the Apollo space pods we are familiar with. Testing in April last year proved successful in drops of up to 11,000 feet. Space Adventures Ltd. Have announced that they are working on a round trip to the moon, with a projected fee of some $100,000,000, there is no time frame on when this might be possible though. While Excalibur Almaz, have announced that they are able to sell tickets for flight to the moon and expects to take the first of these voyages in 2015.
Initially it will be enough simply to travel up and down and experience zero gravity and check out the view. But the competition is also fierce to develop the first hotel in space. American motel tycoon Robert Bigelow acquired the rights to inflatable space habitats from the Transhab programme abandoned by NASA. A project that shows much more promise than initially thought. The Space Island Group are developing the Space Island Project with a plan to have 20,000 people on their ‘space island’ by 2020 with the number of people then doubling every decade.
Suborbital space flights offer a more affordable option and XCOR Aerospace is working on a suborbital vehicle called Lynx. Unlike the Virgin Galactic ship it will not require a mothership and will allow for quick turnaround of up to four times per day. That means smaller numbers but with testing underway it seems a real possibility. Armadillo Aerospace is developing a two-seater space craft while EADS Astrium of the European Aerospace giant EADS has been working on its space tourism project since 2007.