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Space Tourism Industry Gains New Competitor

Zonk posted about 6 years ago | from the going-on-up dept.

Space 104

mattnyc99 writes "There's a new entry in the race for the first space tourism jet: XCOR Aerospace, a California-based rocket builder. The company says its clean-burning, two-seat Lynx spacecraft will lift off by 2010. After we only saw a mockup of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo a couple months back, you'd think this was serious competition in the 'New Space' race, but these photos show that Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites is well on its way with construction."

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104 comments

Two Notes (3, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 6 years ago | (#22885216)

As far as I know Virgin and Scaled Composites are the same endeavor, they are both signed to a two year deal to build SpaceShipTwo.

Also, it should be noted that there was a an accident involving two deaths last year [slashdot.org] at Scaled Composites and prior to that their buyout by Northrup Grumman [slashdot.org].

Honestly, I kind of expected that endeavor to fail as a result of those two news stories, I'm pleased to find out they are continuing on their contract although I question further contracts with Virgin.

Goatse is dying (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22885470)

Another crippling bombshell hit the already beleaguered goatse [twofo.co.uk][goatse.ch] community when netcraft...

You nerd faggots love it.

Re:Two Notes (2, Informative)

ushering05401 (1086795) | about 6 years ago | (#22886108)

Somewhat O/T, but I just finished the book Strange Angel by George Pendle, which chronicles the origins of professional rocketry programs in the U.S. I have a whole new appreciation for how far we have come now that I know more about where things started.

The book reveals some truly bizarre goings on with the founders of the rocketry movement and includes appearances by Alistair Crowley, cultists, famous sci-fi authors, communists, and a swindling L. Ron Hubbard prior to the founding of Scientology.

I thought I was fairly well versed in the origins of the U.S. space program, but it turns out I didn't know the first thing.

This guy is the main focus of the book: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Whiteside_Parsons [wikipedia.org]

Definitely worth a read if only for insight into L. Ron's past, but hearing about the meager beginnings of JPL among others was fascinating.

Happy reading.

Re:Two Notes (1)

longacre (1090157) | about 6 years ago | (#22886430)

Honestly, I kind of expected that endeavor to fail as a result of those two news stories, I'm pleased to find out they are continuing on their contract although I question further contracts with Virgin.
Sir Richard Branson has a big stake in this, both financially and in the reputation of his brand, and he's already collected $30 million in deposits from passengers. Unless there's some kind of disaster, I suspect Virgin will be in this for the long haul.

Re:Two Notes (1)

fredericd (1263480) | about 6 years ago | (#22886956)

Does Virgin has the intention to fuel SpaceShipTwo with bio-fuel that he created uses some nut (babassu nuts) from the Amazon rain forest? http://ezvancouver.com/2008/02/26/richard-branson-opened-a-vial-of-jet-fuel-made-with-oil-from-brazilian-babassu-nuts/ [ezvancouver.com]

Re:Two Notes (1)

BBandCMKRNL (1061768) | about 6 years ago | (#22892512)

Does Virgin has the intention to fuel SpaceShipTwo with bio-fuel that he created uses some nut (babassu nuts) from the Amazon rain forest?
Perhaps the mother ship, but the space ship uses nitrious oxide and a rubber compound.

Pretty Impressive (1)

rdhatch (1253652) | about 6 years ago | (#22885230)

We just need to get "space vacations" down to the sub-million dollar mark. Right now...unless you have more money than God, you are pretty much out of luck. Good to see some competition. This will hopefully achieve the goal of lowering the price for a space getaway.

Re:Pretty Impressive (4, Funny)

garett_spencley (193892) | about 6 years ago | (#22885294)

"Right now...unless you have more money than God, you are pretty much out of luck."

Bad analogy.

Linus has certainly made some coin via free stock options from Linux companies, various donations, trademark royalties etc. but he's not THAT rich.

Re:Pretty Impressive (4, Funny)

moderatorrater (1095745) | about 6 years ago | (#22885394)

Which raises the question: can God create a vacation so expensive that He Himself cannot afford it?

Re:Pretty Impressive (2, Insightful)

gammygator (820041) | about 6 years ago | (#22885656)

If he's using the accounting system of the American government, he can borrow endlessly and get Hell to pay.

Re:Pretty Impressive (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | about 6 years ago | (#22885754)

Which raises the question: can God create a vacation so expensive that He Himself cannot afford it?
Could God create a religion so crazy, even He couldn't believe in it?

Re:Pretty Impressive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22886648)

As a perfect and omnipresent being, if He did, He'd find that He'd already been there. In addition, the Perfect Vacation (as one created by God Himself must surely be) would of course possess, among many other dazzling attributes, the patronage of God. So the only way He could create a vacation so expansice that He Himself could not afford it would be to create a vacation on which He'd already spent all his money.

Re:Pretty Impressive (1)

Ginnungagap (1232474) | about 6 years ago | (#22894244)

Omnipotence implies that He would be able, but then would not that inability to pay equal the absence of omnipotence?

And since so many people seem to think there absolutely has to be an omnipotent being:

Wouldn't He - simply by creating said vacation, create another omnipotent being thus replacing himself?

Would that vacation then in fact BE God?

Or would that vacation on the contrary be the Antichrist?



// sits back and watches thousands of religious geeks go mad ;E

-Gin

Re:Pretty Impressive (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 6 years ago | (#22885454)

You aren't getting much a space vacation with the ventures so far. A few minutes of microgravity in sub-orbit, is it really worth even a few thousand dollars?

Re:Pretty Impressive (2, Informative)

wattrlz (1162603) | about 6 years ago | (#22885626)

These guys (and whoever's keeping them in business) seem to think so:
  • www.gozerog.com/
  • www.spaceadventures.com/
  • www.incredible-adventures.com/zerog.html

Re:Pretty Impressive (1)

evanbd (210358) | about 6 years ago | (#22885822)

For most people, no. But for some people it certainly is. It's abundantly clear that there is at least a moderate size market for these flights -- enough to make the operation profitable.

If you want a better ride, wait a bit -- but the right way to get there, especially for a small company, is to start with a smaller, lower performance vehicle. Orbital tourism will come, but trying to do it now would be akin to trying to fly across the Atlantic in about 1905 -- the industry has barely come into existence, at least when you look at private rocketships, rather than government funded missiles and their derivatives.

Re:Pretty Impressive (1)

Rei (128717) | about 6 years ago | (#22886596)

You say that it's "abundantly clear". And how do you arrive at this conclusion? I've heard a bunch of people make that claim, and nobody backs it up.

Yes, there are some millionaires who've paid several million to go to orbit. But they get to *stay there for days*. It's a whole different ballpark. You're asking people to pay an order of magnitude or two less but get five orders of magnitude less time at 1/4th the altitude and 1/10th the delta-V. How many people ride MiGs to see the curvature of the Earth? How many take part in the zero-G parabolas? A few thousand annually, no? These things cost *two orders of magnitude less*.

Now, I'm not asserting that there is no market for these launches. I just question the size of the market. And even if it is big enough now, how big do you think it'll be after the first accident? Not "If" there is an accident, but "When"; it's pretty much a given in this business.

By the way: most rockets *are* run privately. Craft like the Shuttle are the exception, not the rule. Government subsidy often helps, but not always -- there's the Zenit, the Pegasus, and now the Falcon. And these actually, you know, go to orbit. I.e., they actually face the challenges involved rather then bypassing them by choosing an easy flight envelope that doesn't actually accomplish anything and whose craft can't be scaled up to orbit without a complete redesign.

Re:Pretty Impressive (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | about 6 years ago | (#22886752)

Now, I'm not asserting that there is no market for these launches. I just question the size of the market.

If I recall correctly the market for suborbital sounding rocket research flights is something like $400 million a year, and even besides space tourism I imagine the emerging suborbital vehicles could take a decent bite of that market.

Re:Pretty Impressive (1)

evanbd (210358) | about 6 years ago | (#22886866)

It's abundantly clear if you have access to the market research. I don't right now, but I've (some of) it. No, I won't back it up more than that. If you were in a position where that research mattered to you directly (ie an investor / employee / business partner of a relevant company), you'd have access to it to.

Accidents are no more a given in this industry than any other transportation industry. At least in XCOR's case, the vehicle has more in common with a small private plane than historical rockets from a safety perspective. The rocket engines will be individually protected by blast shields in case something goes dramatically wrong -- just like jet engine turbines are. Aside from the engine and the flight plan, this is just a smallish airplane / glider, and most of the safety analysis is similar. Most importantly, it can draw on a long history of airplane safety analysis for the vast majority of failure modes.

Problems will certainly occur, but there is no reason that they need to cause injury or death. XCOR had a no-light on the EZ-Rocket during an air show once; most of the spectators never even realized anything went wrong. Most problems that occur on Lynx will be of similar magnitude: maybe a mission abort, but no catastrophic results.

Zenit and Pegasus are not private rockets in the same sense that the Lynx is; they're built largely for government markets and with substantial government funding. (Pegasus is slightly debateable, but even so it's not most rockets.) If you think most rockets were developed primarily for non-government customers, you're simply wrong. Falcon has flown twice, and failed both times -- I'll count it when it works (which I fully expect it to on its next launch -- I don't mean to disparage Elon and company, they just haven't succeeded yet, so I won't count them yet).

Be careful about saying the craft doesn't accomplish anything. Just because the market it's serving (a rollercoaster ride with a hell of a view at the top) isn't the one you want, doesn't mean it's not interesting. The technologies being developed for Lynx are carefully chosen to help build the XCOR technology base for future work. So what if the eventual orbital rocket isn't Lynx? The cheap way to get to orbit is to start small, learn as you go, and find ways to make it pay for itself before you get there. Unless you have Elon's money behind you, it's not possible to go directly to an orbital vehicle. Also, if you think Lynx isn't facing any of the same challenges, you're severly underestimating the amount of work that goes into it. It faces the challenges of control, reentry, high mass ratio, etc -- just smaller versions of all of them. You start by solving the easy version of the problem, then you make it a bit harder, then a bit harder still, and eventually you're in orbit without having to take any single giant leaps in engineering.

Re:Pretty Impressive (1)

Rei (128717) | about 6 years ago | (#22887274)

I don't right now, but I've (some of) it. No, I won't back it up more than that.

Once again, the claim is asserted, but no data is provided.

Accidents are no more a given in this industry than any other transportation industry.

Oh, please -- don't give me that [youtube.com] ;) Rockets, and especially rocketplanes, have a long history of high accident rates. Even when you're working with things on the ground, it's horribly dangerous work, as Virgin recently found out.

The rocket engines will be individually protected by blast shields in case something goes dramatically wrong

When you're hauling that much energy, a blast shield is no reassurance. You're dealing with LOX/Methane, no? I'd think you must be daft to believe that a blast shield light enough to take with you would keep you safe in a LOX/Methane CATO. Perhaps from a hybrid rocket explosion, but not when you're dealing with two easily vaporized, readily misceable fuels.

Aside from the engine and the flight plan, this is just a smallish airplane / glider, and most of the safety analysis is similar.

Yeah, apart from the "Mach 2" and "huge amounts of fuel and oxidizer" aspects, just like a glider.

Most importantly, it can draw on a long history of airplane safety analysis for the vast majority of failure modes.

Yeah, just like the rest of rockets [youtube.com], right?

Zenit and Pegasus are not private rockets in the same sense that the Lynx is; they're built largely for government markets and with substantial government funding. (Pegasus is slightly debateable, but even so it's not most rockets)

They're private rockets, designed, built, and operated by private rocket companies without subsidy. Yes, they "stood on the shoulders of giants", so to speak, borrowing tech from existing systems, but so? Yes, they get government contracts -- but so do half of the private businesses in the US.

Falcon has flown twice, and failed both times

Reaching 2/3rds the delta-V of orbit is far more than XCOR will probably ever do. However, more on this (to XCOR's credit) shortly.

are carefully chosen to help build the XCOR technology base for future work.

I will give XCOR credit for this. While I'm not the biggest fan of LOX/Methane (assuming that's what Lynx is going to use, since I know it's something XCOR has messed with; I prefer LOX/Propane because it has almost as much ISP, much higher density at 100K, and can share a common bulkhead), it does have enough ISP to reach orbit without a ridiculous scaling factor. Also, launching from ground means that you don't need a gigantic carrier to scale up. So you're certainly a lot more scaleable than Virgin, and I will be keeping an eye out. However, you have a long way to go before showing you have any sort of credibility when it comes to the ability to scale to orbit. The small, private rocketry field is littered with the graves of companies with equally grandiouse dreams.

Note that I used to hold SpaceX to this standard, too. They've clearly moved beyond that point by now, having virtually gotten to orbit and retired the risk on most of their systems. You are not in that position, so it's only reasonable to expect skepticism and scrutiny until you get there.

Also, if you think Lynx isn't facing any of the same challenges, you're severly underestimating the amount of work that goes into it.

What was I thinking, thinking that 11.5 times the velocity and 130 times the heat load per unit mass is a whole different ballgame?

Re:Pretty Impressive (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 6 years ago | (#22887418)

BTW, with regard to the accidents and deaths, the engines are the least of the issues (at least by record):
  1. Apollo 1: Electrical fire through the capsule; Astronauts are asphyxiated.
  2. Challenger: o-ring gave out due to low temp; The engine did fine. The ensuing flame burned hole in fuel tank and blew it. Supposedly, the astronauts were alive on the way down. It was upon hitting the ocean that they died.
  3. Columbia: Craft breaks apart due to dings in heat shield.
  4. Scaled Composites: Engine was a solid engine and IMPOSSIBLE of blowing up. It was the tank that gave out (I believe that the ppl were asphyxiated).

So what does it all show? That our problem have not been the engines (esp. when well known). The problem are not known. IOW, yes, you are correct. We will have accidents.

Re:Pretty Impressive (1)

Rei (128717) | about 6 years ago | (#22887714)

It may surprise you to learn that there have been a *lot* more than four rocketry accidents in the world. Several percent of all launches have ended in failure. And the engines are a leading culprit. The entire Soviet manned moon mission was doomed by repeated engine problems in the N1 [wikipedia.org], for example.

Re:Pretty Impressive (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | about 6 years ago | (#22888098)

I will give XCOR credit for this. While I'm not the biggest fan of LOX/Methane (assuming that's what Lynx is going to use, since I know it's something XCOR has messed with; I prefer LOX/Propane because it has almost as much ISP, much higher density at 100K, and can share a common bulkhead), it does have enough ISP to reach orbit without a ridiculous scaling factor.

Actually, according to their FAQ [hobbyspace.com], they'll be using LOX/Kerosene. If I understand correctly this is the same sort of fuel SpaceX uses, although of course operating on a rather different order of magnitude. It seems that the largest LOX/Kerosene engine XCOR has constructed so far was a 1,800 lbf [xcor.com] engine back in 2003 -- anybody have back-of-the-envelope calculations on what sort of thrust XCOR needs for a suborbital spaceplane?

Re:Pretty Impressive (1)

evanbd (210358) | about 6 years ago | (#22888430)

I have some non-back-of-the-envelope numbers for you. There are 4 engines, 3000 lbf thrust each (last I heard; that may have changed slightly, but not significantly). The propellants are pump-fed by derivatives of the pump used on the Rocket Racer. The chamber itself will be similar in construction to the Rocket Racer engine, but about double the thrust (RR engine is ~1500 lbf). So the engine is a larger LOX-kerosene engine than XCOR has built, but lower thrust than the 7500 lbf Lox-Methane engine they built for NASA.

Re:Pretty Impressive (1)

Rei (128717) | about 6 years ago | (#22895234)

LOX/Kerosene is certainly good as well. Lots of respectable orbital rockets use/have used LOX/Kerosene. ISP could stand to be better, but it's got nice density and is a mature tech.

Re:Pretty Impressive (1)

evanbd (210358) | about 6 years ago | (#22888322)

You're right, I'm still not providing data on the market, because I don't know of good public data. But then, I'm not asking you to believe it, either. If you want some evidence (ont sufficient, I'm aware), note that EADS Astrium is entering the market or at least planning to -- and they're not exactly a small company. If they think there's a market, that's based on data.

When you look at the historical record for rocket engines, remember that very very few of those were designed with safety as the primary concern. Hence my earlier comment about repurposed missiles. You'd do better to look at the safety records of things like JATO bottles -- rockets that were primarily intended to be safe to operate. I said accidents aren't a given; I didn't say they weren't historically common. But there's no reason we have to repeat past mistakes, especially when the fundamental causes (ie, not making reliability a primary design goal) are so obvious and so easily fixed.

Lox/Methane vs Lox/Kerosene vs Nitrous/HTPB doens't make a huge difference -- they all have broadly similar energy contents. What does make a difference is that in a hybrid, the pressure vessel that can fail is much, much larger -- they're more like solids that way. Most rocket engine failures don't involve the propellants in the tanks mixing and detonating (that normally happens after the engine fails). They involve the pump or chamber failing as a pressure vessel -- a moderately large, high pressure pressure vessel. Blast shields can certainly contain that (where "contain" means "redirect aft where it won't hurt anything"). The blast shield is substantially lighter than the chamber itself; there's nothing hard about taking it with you, unless you're trying to shave your margins to old-fashioned aerospace standards in pursuit of some goal other than a safe, reliable, and cheap to operate vehicle.

XCOR isn't asking you to believe they can reach orbit; nor are they asking their investors to believe that. Long-term, they plan to do that, but they plan to build the experience and credibility first. This is a step on that path; it's obviously not sufficient. I find it odd that when you say it isn't orbit, and I answer that it's a step on the way, your complaint is that the journey isn't done yet. What exactly is the problem with starting the path to orbit by learning how to build and operate safe, reliable rocket engines and rocket powered vehicles? Note that no one knows how to operate a reliable, reusable rocket powered vehicle with sane amounts of maintenence. It simply hasn't been done -- with the possible exception of the EZ-Rocket, though even that is still too high maintenence for revenue service.

I won't comment much on propellant choice, except to say that by the time you account for density, Lox/Methane, Lox/Kerosene, and Lox/propane are all reasonable choices -- things like handling concerns, cooling properties, whether you can store them in wing tanks (it's a lot harder with cryos) are all at least as relevant as the minor performance differences. Lox is clearly the oxidizer of choice, and it should be paired with some liquid hydrocarbon, not LH2.

Certainly, the problems of orbit are far harder than suborbital. But you have to start somewhere. What's your alternative? All-up, aim for orbit on the first launch? How do you know it will work? I happen to think that if you want a reliable, reusable, commercially operable vehicle, you're much better off starting small and slowly expanding the envelope. There's no big quantum leap from suborbital to orbital -- you can slowly grow the performance and creep up on problems, solving them as they appear. The biggest thing to learn is how to operate the vehicle safely, reliable, and cheaply -- and the only way to learn that is to try operating such a vehicle. You learn a lot from that, and most of it transfers directly to the high performance version.

The ways in which Lynx is more like an airplane than a traditional rocket should be fairly obvious. The engine can shut down, and all you have to do is glide back home. The engine can catch fire or explode, and the same is true. Most classical rockets are not designed to survive an engine failure; the fact that they don't survive one should therefore come as no surprise, and it therefore also has approximately zero bearing on whether Lynx would survive one. The onboard propellants really don't get involved in most failures any more than they do for a jet airplane. Most of the ways things can fail don't involve them (navigation system; electrical failures; bird strike; etc). Between blast shields, onboard fire suppression systems, redundant shutoff valves, and a lack of high-speed low-margin turbomachinery (a common source of rocket engine failures), XCOR engines fail rarely and in survivable fashions. (XCOR hasn't had a catostrophic engine failure ever, and hasn't had a failure that did substantial damage to the engine outside of test programs where that was a known possible result -- like one test program to see how little cooling an engine could take that simply decreased coolant flow until the chamber burned through.)

Let me reiterate: just because this isn't all that close to orbit doesn't mean that there isn't lots of relevant stuff to learn. Lots of people have answered the question of how to get to orbit, and how to survive reentry; no one has answered the question of how to do it reliably and cheaply with a reusable vehicle. If you want to know how to build your heat shield, there are plenty of papers you can read. If you want to know how to land a rocket vehicle, refuel, and launch it again ten minutes later -- well, for that you should go talk to XCOR.

Bragging Rights (1)

rubeng (1263328) | about 6 years ago | (#22886002)

I think there's are many thousands of people who will pony up big bucks to do something that millions if not billions of people have dreamed of doing for thousands of years. Taking their money and developing affordable spaceflight with it will benefit everyone more than if they just bought another big house in Aspen or some expensive gas-guzzline supercar.

Re:Pretty Impressive (1)

SpinyNorman (33776) | about 6 years ago | (#22886370)

Hopefully the ticket price also includes some training time.

You'd need quite a few cycles on the vomit comet before you get the bonking-in-zero-G thing down well enough to perform under pressure in your 2 min window.

Re:Pretty Impressive (1)

Original Replica (908688) | about 6 years ago | (#22887772)

We just need to get "space vacations" down to the sub-million dollar mark.

Why? Could there be anything that is greater form of conspicuous consumption that space tourism? [wikipedia.org] Do you really want to have to hear about bourgeois soccer moms in space? You do realize that that will eventually lead to Orbital Disneyland. No No No. It's too horrible to contemplate. I would much rather see the roads into space colonization carved out by industry. [wikipedia.org] I must have missed Sir Richard Branson's phone call when he rang to ask me my opinion.

What's more... (4, Funny)

an.echte.trilingue (1063180) | about 6 years ago | (#22885234)

its clean-burning, two-seat Lynx spacecraft will lift off by 2010
What's more, it will include web browsing capabilities.

Re:What's more... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22885266)

Sweet. I would hate to get bored on my once in a lifetime zero-g spaceflight.

Re:What's more... (1)

jemtallon (1125407) | about 6 years ago | (#22885270)

See? I've been saying for years that eventually lynx will win the browser war. With this marketing boost, it shouldn't be long now! Lynx ftw!

Re:What's more... (1)

DogDude (805747) | about 6 years ago | (#22885296)

What's more, it will include web browsing capabilities.

Only text-based, though.

Re:What's more... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22887440)

What's more, it will include web browsing capabilities.

Only text-based, though.
Well, there's an ASCII code for space, so it's sufficient for space tourism.

This Will Be Newsworthy... (1)

crymeph0 (682581) | about 6 years ago | (#22885310)

When they have more than "Artist's Conception" drawings.

I want very badly to be excited about the private space race, but with only three serious "New Space" firms with hardware in the sky (Bigelow, SpaceX, and Scaled Composites), I'm still not sure I'll ride a spaceship before I'm dead, at least not at a price I can afford.

Re:This Will Be Newsworthy... (1)

elrous0 (869638) | about 6 years ago | (#22885988)

I'm sick of these companies with no real credentials claiming to build the next big rocket. Until you've got a prototype that can actually go into space, then STFU. Any jerkass can put together some drawings and animation.

Re:This Will Be Newsworthy... (1)

WhiplashII (542766) | about 6 years ago | (#22886122)

While I commiserate with your sentiment, please note that XCOR is not a no-product company. They have built many engine designs, both internally and under contract - and more importantly, they have built and flown a rocket plane for the last few years. They have recently retired that plane, because they are working on two new designs.

The first is the base design for the rocket racing league, and the second is the Lynx. The rocket racing league plane is what you would probably call "almost done", ie it looks like a plane, its engine works, and it is probably flyable - but there is still a lot of qualification and other work ahead of it before it races.

The second is the recently announced Lynx. Frankly, I'm rather surprised that they announced this early - they typically don't announce until it is flying. But I guess the fact that it is funded is a big step, and considered worthy of the big press.

(I'm not working for XCOR, but am sort of a competitor - but they are "the real deal", and should not be dismissed.)

Re:This Will Be Newsworthy... (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | about 6 years ago | (#22886046)

This Will Be Newsworthy... When they have more than "Artist's Conception" drawings.

I want very badly to be excited about the private space race, but with only three serious "New Space" firms with hardware in the sky (Bigelow, SpaceX, and Scaled Composites), I'm still not sure I'll ride a spaceship before I'm dead, at least not at a price I can afford.


Technically speaking, XCOR has had "hardware in the sky" since 2001, when they first flew the XCOR EZ-Rocket [wikipedia.org] rocketplane. A couple years ago the EZ-Rocket set the point-to-point distance record [space.com] for a rocket-powered take-off and landing. XCOR is basically building on the experience they gained from the EZ-Rocket and their currently Rocket Racing League efforts to create the suborbital spacecraft the current article is talking about. XCOR has historically been incredibly conservative in their predictions, and I wouldn't be surprised if they actually have new hardware flying faster than their predicted timescale.

Not really that great. (2, Informative)

WindBourne (631190) | about 6 years ago | (#22885330)

The xcor is designed to go with 2 ppl to 63 miles, will use rockets the entire way, and hits mach 2 at the top of the peak. OTH, SSII is designed to take 8 ppl to 120 Miles, will use jet to get up to 600 MPH, and hits mach 3. In addition, the SSII can be modified to carry small cargo and launch it. It is possible for SSII to launch small rockets akin to Orbital's, but carrying more payload.

What I am waiting to see is Virgin to decide to talk to Bigelow. In fact, I would be surprised if he has not talked to both Spacex AND bigelow. The reason is that he will want to put up a hotel and get the traffic going. Once he has traffic to a hotel, then it will make pursuing the SSIII quite a bit easier.

Re:Not really that great. (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | about 6 years ago | (#22886020)

What I am waiting to see is Virgin to decide to talk to Bigelow.

A lot of people were hoping that yesterday's announcement would have been a deal between Virgin/Scaled and XCOR. Scaled has fantastic airframe experience but minimal rocket engine experience, and it would've been ideal for XCOR (which has minimal airframe experience but great reusable rocket engine experience) to partner with them. This would've been particularly ideal in light of Scaled's recent problems with hybrid rocket engines. Oh well...

Re:Not really that great. (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 6 years ago | (#22886300)

Hmmm. Scaled is using Spacedev's engine, but the explosion was simply the Nitrous Oxide tank giving out. It was not really an engine problem. That will take Scaled a bit of time to learn about. Likewise, XCOR's issue is one of money. But the feds are now spending a bit of money on them. Hopefully, Spacedev is also able to get some money (from private or feds) to be able to build their dream chaser.

Actually, I am glad that scaled and xcor did not get together. They are competitors. By remaining that way, there is a good change that XCOR will pursue money from elsewhere and continue with their ship. That means more ships out there. Even though I am a big believer in Spacex's falcon/dragon, I would like to see more rockets/ships out there. This will push money into space. No doubt the somebody will fund bigelow to go to the moon quickly (as in by 2015). Others will pursue trying to lasso an asteroid and bring it back via robotics. Heck, that would allow them to build in space (presumably cheaply). Of course, I am also an optimist on this. :)

Re:Not really that great. (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | about 6 years ago | (#22886358)

I mostly agree. I am curious about who's going to build the airframe for XCOR's new suborbital craft, though. Unless they're going to massively increase the size of the company, I suspect they won't be building it themselves. (The EZ-Rocket apparently used a Rutan Long-EZ [wikipedia.org] as its frame)

Re:Not really that great. (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 6 years ago | (#22886748)

Just guessing, they will probably approach one of the aircraft builders out there. I would not be surprised to see them busy grabbing some of the ppl from the recently chap 7 Adams Air. Another possibility is Eclipse Air is backed by several MS guys, including Paul Allen. I would not be surprised to see Allen finally jump back into this. Keep in mind that Scaled has been an airframe builder, not a "spaceframe" builder.

Re:Not really that great. (1)

deander2 (26173) | about 6 years ago | (#22886056)

and hits mach 2 at the top of the peak.

it may hit mach 2, but at the top of its peak it's travelling at mach 0. =P

Re:Not really that great. (1)

solafide (845228) | about 6 years ago | (#22886904)

Only 0 if it's launched straight away from Earth, else the horizontal component of its velocity is non-zero at all points in the flight. /nitpick>

Re:Not really that great. (1)

deander2 (26173) | about 6 years ago | (#22887336)

which it is, since it lands where it launches...

now someone reply with "but you forgot the earth's rotation!" =P

Re:Not really that great. (1)

WhiteDragon (4556) | about 6 years ago | (#22893068)

it may hit mach 2, but at the top of its peak it's travelling at mach 0. =P
Actually much sooner, as once it is out of the atmosphere, there is no air to carry sound, and with no sound, there is no speed greater than the speed of sound. I guess it is not really Mach 0, rather Mach NaN.

Re:Not really that great. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 6 years ago | (#22886372)

What I am waiting to see is Virgin to decide to talk to Bigelow.

Unlikely to happen - as the investment in an orbital craft will be an order of magnitude or larger than that required for the suborbital one. Not to mention the fact that Virgin tends to follow loudly (making you think they are leading) rather than actually leading.
 
 

What I am waiting to see is Virgin to decide to talk to Bigelow. In fact, I would be surprised if he has not talked to both Spacex AND bigelow.

Why? SpaceX has neither booster nor capsule. Bigelow doesn't have anything to really show. Booster, capsule, orbiting hotel - all vaporware or just barely this side of it. (Yeah, yeah - there's been low fidelity demo's of the first and the last on that list. But demos aren't operational. They're barely prototypes.)

Re:Not really that great. (1)

everphilski (877346) | about 6 years ago | (#22886472)

Yeah, yeah - there's been low fidelity demo's of the first and the last on that list. But demos aren't operational. They're barely prototypes.

Give him credit ... do you have multiple "barely prototypes" in LEO, and is NASA contracting with you for access to the technology you are developing? I didn't think so ...

Re:Not really that great. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 6 years ago | (#22890148)

Whether I have or have not done those things, or whether I or do not give him credit, doesn't change their nature one bit.

So let me see if I understand you right (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 6 years ago | (#22886936)

NASA and Air force who have monitored BOTH spacex launches, say that minor changes were needed with the craft for the last launch. In fact, the Air Force is now jumping in with both feet. It has declared falcon I to be an operational system. NASA, Air Force, and others believe that Falcon I is a real launcher. Of course, Falcon 9 remains to be seen, but other than supporting parallel engines, it has the entire same system from falcon 1.

In addition, Bigelow has 2 test systems floating up there. The real Life support system is missing, but both crafts are doing just fine. Both are fully functional. According to Bigelow, they are building and testing life support on the ground. Of course, there may be issues, but not likely. I suspect that they are tapping well known engineering firms for this. All that is needed is to scale up the system and add life support for the next version. In fact, I am guessing that either America or another country will buy 1 or more of these to hook up to the ISS. I would not be surprised to see Bigelow cut a deal for another nation to do just this. It would be nice to see Britain do that, rather than build something new. At any rate, After that they have other intentions. BA-330 is a simple scale up, but the end and center node will require more work.

Then there is Dragon. That IS vaporware. It has no real test. Of course, it is built from known technology, but no doubt about it, this part is vaporware. I know that spacex says that it is a fully tested capsule, but I would certainly not be in hurry to jump in it. Let it go to space a few times first. Say a dozen.

But you say that the entire system is vaporware.
Have you told NASA or the air force your expert thoughts?

Re:So let me see if I understand you right (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 6 years ago | (#22890216)

Ah, yes. And the Air Force and NASA are never wrong are they? After all, NASA declared the Shuttle an operational vehicle. And to replace the expensive Shuttle the Air Force built one of the only two launchers we've ever built that were more expensive than the Shuttle.
 
Of course, you omit the fact the one of the two Bigelow orbiters has had problems - problems Bigelow hasn't discussed much in public. You are also ignorant of the fact that scaling up is not exactly simple. Etc... etc...
 
Or do you only listen to facts and spin and shit you've made up completely without understanding what you talking about when they agree with your biases?

Re:So let me see if I understand you right (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 6 years ago | (#22893868)

Space shuttle has been one of the bigger disasters going. I think that we both agree on that. But you omit the fact that NASA did not want it. It was pushed by Nixon. NASA told Nixon that it would be a monster costs. They wanted to keep Saturn going, but modified for LEO, and they wanted to start work on a craft that is very similar to where scaled is heading i.e. first stage is jet propelled. The difference is that they wanted to use a modified valkyre for the base, so they were looking at mach 3 at 80K. That would have lowered our launch costs. The republicans are to blame for this, not NASA.

Can NASA and Air force be wrong on this and you be right? Possibly. Not likely. In particular spacex went 99% of the way. All they needed was 1 more minute of burn time. Only several things were wrong and easily correctable. In the scope of things, can you honestly say that you think that Spacex next launch will fail? Not me. I believe that something COULD happen, but no more or less than any other launch system.

Bigelow has some issues(loved their computer system). That is why they are testing these. Yes, not very public. But overall, it has sounded doable. I am no longer directly tapped into the space field (worked on MGS and have taught for various groups at NASA ), just know some friends from NASA, and engineers from l-mart (live close to there). So, just out of curiosity, what have you heard? Anything that prevents scaling, or is it just standard test issues?

Am I just talking shit? Hmmmm. Well, what exactly is your background that you feel that you know more than a number of others? Or are you just spinning and FUDing?

Re:Not really that great. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22886750)

You're confusing miles and kilometers. XCOR goes to 60 km and SSII will go past 100 km

Re:Not really that great. (1)

Rei (128717) | about 6 years ago | (#22886810)

You realize that SSIII is complete vaporware and physically cannot be based on SS1 or SS2, right? And that SS1 and SS2 aren't encountering the challenges involved in orbital craft like extreme thermal management and high levels of delta-V, right?

SpaceX has a booster (Falcon 1) that, but for *either* a baffle or bump suppression, would have orbitted a payload (it now has both), and nonetheless reached 2/3 of the needed delta-V (the payload even separated normally at the end of the burn). SpaceX has also been checking off multiengine test firings in advance of their heavy lift booster (Falcon 9), as well as successfully test firing an advanced, regenerative version of their Falcon engine. And their Dragon has passed all NASA certifications so far for a manned, *orbital* spacecraft.

How, exactly, does Virgin and their vaporware fit into Bigelow's needs? Sounds like they have everything they need in a company that's already most of the way there -- SpaceX. What do they need a company that's virtually none of the way there for?

Come on rei (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 6 years ago | (#22887066)

We have had loads of posts about spacex. You know that I am a spacex fanboi. In fact, I even said so in the original post. I said that I am waiting for Virgin to talk to Spacex/Bigelow. With scaled's SSII, they are covering cheap tourism. But virgin likes to cover the high-end. I find it likely that he will at least rent or go in partners with Trump on this. Buy a station from bigelow and then use a falcon to launch it and service it. That is, service it UNTIL SSIII comes on-line. Will it take awhile? Most likely. But remember that Rutan has (or is) selling the group to Northrup. He obviously wants funding, since he is still there. My belief is that they are probably working on a SSIII, even now. But yeah, spaceX will be there with cargo by 2010. ANd human before 2011.

Re:Not really that great. (1)

thealsir (927362) | about 6 years ago | (#22892452)

What I am waiting to see is Virgin to decide to talk to Bigelow. In fact, I would be surprised if he has not talked to both Spacex AND bigelow. The reason is that he will want to put up a hotel and get the traffic going. Once he has traffic to a hotel, then it will make pursuing the SSIII quite a bit easier.

Privative the ISS? Then it won't be such a boondoggle, eh?

Who is all aboard for this? (1)

Farakin (1101889) | about 6 years ago | (#22885344)

I am actually quite interested in this. While $200k will probably turn into $400k by the time these are ready, if I had the money I would. Space Camp really peaked this interest. What do you all think? Would you go if it was more affordable?

Space tourism will be banned (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22885396)

After the first death. Mark my words.

Re:Space tourism will be banned (3, Insightful)

evanbd (210358) | about 6 years ago | (#22885740)

Why? Climbing Mt. Everest isn't banned -- and I believe there has been 1 climbing season since it was first climbed that there *hasn't* been a death. Adventure tourism regularly claims lives, and hasn't been banned. Now, I doubt the company that had a fatal accident would survive, but there are a lot of dedicated engineers working very hard to make accidents both unlikely and survivable.

Disclaimer: I've interned at XCOR. Assuming I go back, I'll be getting a ride on this vehicle -- not as an option, but as a job requirement. It's part of the way they do safety. Anyone who works on the vehicle rides on it. That way everyone is directly motivated to work on making it safer.

Re:Space tourism will be banned (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22886008)

Why? Climbing Mt. Everest isn't banned -- and I believe there has been 1 climbing season since it was first climbed that there *hasn't* been a death.
Easy, because Mount Everest isn't in America :)

Re:Space tourism will be banned (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22889164)

An official at XCOR told me, when I asked, that he believed they could survive more than one lost vehicle and still have a company/industry.

Re:Space tourism will be banned (1)

BBandCMKRNL (1061768) | about 6 years ago | (#22892752)

Disclaimer: I've interned at XCOR. Assuming I go back, I'll be getting a ride on this vehicle -- not as an option, but as a job requirement. It's part of the way they do safety. Anyone who works on the vehicle rides on it. That way everyone is directly motivated to work on making it safer.
Didn't the FAA set some minimum physical requirements for "space tourists", for lack of a better name? If so, it seems the "ride the vehicle" requirement could potentially cause them to lose out on some very good talent, not because the potential employee wouldn't want to fly the vehicle, but because they couldn't pass the FAA physical.

cover some ground (4, Interesting)

Thelasko (1196535) | about 6 years ago | (#22885412)

As I understand it, these companies both plan on sending people straight up and returning them to the same place they took off from. This is wonderful, but impractical for anything but a joy ride. How about creating something that lands you at some other place on the earth's surface? I don't even care if it can only travel from East to West.

Re:cover some ground (1)

wronkiew (529338) | about 6 years ago | (#22886130)

As I understand it, these companies both plan on sending people straight up and returning them to the same place they took off from. This is wonderful, but impractical for anything but a joy ride. How about creating something that lands you at some other place on the earth's surface?

Three reasons: cost, flight rate, and physics. First, physics. If your spacecraft's design has enough energy to go straight up to the edge of space and then come back down, bleeding off that energy to go cross-country is going to reduce the altitude significantly. Adding more energy to a suborbital spacecraft is a difficult and expensive problem to solve. Second, no one is going to pay $100,000 just to get from point A to point B. People are reserving seats at those prices to have the experience of a lifetime. Finally, the only reasons for a spacecraft to shuttle passengers are to get them to someplace they couldn't go before, or to get them there more quickly than the alternatives. You can go from one end of the country to the other on a business jet quite a few times in between flights of the Lynx or SS2. That said, watch for advances in suborbital point to point spacecraft from the military.

Re:cover some ground (1)

WhiplashII (542766) | about 6 years ago | (#22886178)

While I also believe the usefulness of suborbital space flight is limited, please note that the announcement includes the intention of the Air Force to use flights to test new space systems in an environment that is very hard to properly simulate down here...

Re:cover some ground (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | about 6 years ago | (#22886320)

This is wonderful, but impractical for anything but a joy ride. How about creating something that lands you at some other place on the earth's surface?

I'd bet this is in XCOR's eventual plans, perhaps with a future craft. In fact, in 2005 their EZ-Rocket made the first delivery of US mail [wikipedia.org] by a manned rocketplane, albeit over a relatively small distance.

Re:cover some ground (1)

Do You Smell That (932346) | about 6 years ago | (#22886486)

Because if they do this, you need to pay for a return trip as well.

Granted, I realize you can use a 1-way normal airline ticket for this, but after arriving at your destination (sans luggage) incredibly quickly, would you really want to take a 22 hour flight back home? As a ride, this might be worth the price for many people; but I doubt many of them would be willing to pay it twice just to get home.

Regardless, just give it some time, and I'm sure both services will be offered. The first airplanes didn't have things like "seats" and "enclosed cockpits" until there was a demand for them. Every idea has to start somewhere.

Licensing may be one issue. (1)

Thag (8436) | about 6 years ago | (#22887048)

Basically, these things aren't licensed like airliners. The FAA has been willing (has bent over backwards, really) to consider these vehicles as barnstormers. So they have been willing to forego the usual rounds of testing that new airliners have to undergo in order to be certified for commercial passenger use.

This is a big deal, as the testing required to certify an airliner costs tens of millions of dollars, and takes years.

If you try to fly these rocket planes as commercial passenger planes, that exemption will most likely go away.

That being said, who can say where the market will go once companies start making money on suborbital flights? I suspect someone will build a New York to Tokyo model...

Re:cover some ground (1)

x1n933k (966581) | about 6 years ago | (#22890396)

Wow, what a foolish comment. Yes, your understanding is correct it is a joy-ride, INTO SPACE. If people who can pay out the 200,000$ to part-take in this trip cared about flying to another spot of the world, I'm sure they'd have done so already via safer and more comfortable transportation like Passenger Jets. Remember, SSII is not meant to hold your baggage and carry-on for the destination. It's meant to give you a view of the world from orbit. Something only a handful have experienced

[J]

Bigtime future investment (1)

Bananatree3 (872975) | about 6 years ago | (#22885524)

Virgin Galactic may bet he first one to fulltime commerical spaceflight, but this industry has not even begun to bloom. It will be one of the biggest lucrative business secters in the coming decades, and I wholeheartedly look forward to the first commerical space IPO.

Look forward to the fireworks (0, Flamebait)

call-me-kenneth (1249496) | about 6 years ago | (#22885614)

I for one can't wait for the exciting (high altitude?) firework displays these various enthusiast types are planning to put on for us. And there's no admission price! The footage will be online before you can say "Uh-oh". I am particularly looking forward to the prospect of the Bearded Wonder finally incinerating himself.

Please Launch This (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22885668)


Criminal [bbc.co.uk] to Antares.

Thank you for your public service.

PatRIOTically,
K Trout

Lonely mile high club (2, Funny)

ziggy00001 (1250832) | about 6 years ago | (#22885760)

I guess it will be kind of difficult to join the mile high club with only one passenger on board at a time...then again it would be over quicker.

Ugly, very ugly (1, Insightful)

rbanffy (584143) | about 6 years ago | (#22886030)

It's the ugliest spaceship I ever saw.

Not to say it won't fly - I am sure it will - but there is some relationship between beauty and function that seems to prevent flying machines from being ugly. This is a level of ugliness I think no flying machine ever reached. And yes, that includes the LEM.

There is something wrong with this design. I can feel it.

Pity Virgin space interests don't extend.. (1)

zmollusc (763634) | about 6 years ago | (#22886062)

.. to making more email space available on their servers. 30mb isn't really much these days.

Competiton makes things even worse (0)

Apoorv Khatreja (1263418) | about 6 years ago | (#22886132)

People say that competition is better for the development of any industry. I beg to differ. The only thing, that competition increases for me, as a consumer, is confusion. I am more confused with two services rather than I am with one. I am ready to pay more if I get what I want, and that too, a quality product.

That spacecraft is called Lynx, which gives me the creeps. I don't want to be traveling in a text-mode, verbose space shuttle. If I ever, will go into outer space, it will be on a first-class, GUI spacecraft, with lots of space to relax, and a lot of people on board with me. I'm not really sure what I would do on the moon with just my girlfriend.

Better article; more points worth noting (4, Informative)

FleaPlus (6935) | about 6 years ago | (#22886260)

The linked article is a little sparse on info, so here's XCOR's press release [xcor.com] and a more informative article: XCOR Unveils New Suborbital Rocketship [space.com]

Also, some additional points worth noting:

  • XCOR [wikipedia.org] isn't just some random wannabe company which recently hopped onto the "space tourism" bandwagon. They're a small (30-person) but well-respected private company noted for their expertise in building reusable liquid-fueled rocket engines.
  • In 2001 they first flew their XCOR EZ-Rocket [wikipedia.org], which made regular demonstration flights at air shows for a few years and in 2005 set the distance record [space.com] for a point-to-point rocket powered takeoff and landing.
  • XCOR has a reputation for not tooting its own horn, instead working quietly and being rather conservative about its announcements.
  • Their first version will go up to 61km, and they're planning on making incremental improvements to produce a second version that goes to 110km.
  • Estimated total project cost is $10 million, with a passenger ticket price of ~$100K (half of Virgin Galactic). XCOR isn't planning on selling tickets directly to customers though, instead selling to ride operators who will deal with customer themselves.
  • They already have a deal with a private research lab to fly multiple research flights for them each year.
  • This quote from XCOR chief Jeff Greason explains their philosophy quite nicely: Lynx is seen by XCOR Aerospace as one piece of a larger roadmap of vehicles -- a start small and then add performance approach -- eventually culminating in a piloted orbital system, Greason said. "We've selected the basket of technologies ... technologies that we believe position us very well for the suborbital market, but also put us on the road for later, higher-performance systems," he explained.

Re:Better article; more points worth noting (1)

drgould (24404) | about 6 years ago | (#22886598)

You forgot to mention their joint development project with NASA [xcor.com] to develop LOX/methane fueled rocket engines and their contract with the Rocket Racing League [rocketracingleague.com] to design and build the first generation of rocket X-Racers [xcor.com].

But aside from that you're right on the money. XCOR isn't some new upstart company; they've been in this business for a long time and take a long-term view towards development. Suborbital vehicle development is just the next step, not the beginning nor the end.

Re:Better article; more points worth noting (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | about 6 years ago | (#22886696)

My mistake! I had meant to mention that XCOR and the Rocket Racing League would be starting rocketplane exhibition races [aero-news.net] this year, but forgot about it while looking up articles. Thanks for the reminder.

Similarity to X-20 (1)

Chairboy (88841) | about 6 years ago | (#22886336)

It looks very similar to the X-20 DynaSoar, a re-usable spaceplane that Boeing was building for the Air Force in the 1960s that was canceled as part of the Vietnam budget crunch.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X-20_Dyna-Soar [wikipedia.org]

Sub-orbital planes have very, very different needs from orbital ones, it's interesting that the design of this happens to (at least superficially) mirror the aerodynamics of the orbital X-20. Perhaps XCOR plans to collect data from the Lynx that could be applied to a followup craft with somewhat expanded characteristics.

Missed the big one. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 6 years ago | (#22886466)

Slashdotters in general aren't familiar with the ins-and-outs of the alt.space industry, so they can be forgiven for having missed the biggest part of this story...
 
XCOR in the past has publicly and repeatedly maintained that they had no desire whatsoever to be in the vehicle business. They wanted to be in the systems and components business. This announcement is a major change in strategic direction - and hints that possibly all is not well inside the alt.space industry.

Re:Missed the big one. (2, Informative)

evanbd (210358) | about 6 years ago | (#22886908)

Where do you arrive at that conclusion? Having interned at XCOR, that's not at all my understanding. They are building the Rocket Racer, they built and flew the EZ-Rocket, and they've been publicly discussing Xerus in vague terms for years. (Xerus is the former public name for Lynx.) I interpret this announcement as a good thing, both for XCOR and the industry as a whole.

Re:Missed the big one. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 6 years ago | (#22890176)

From speaking with Jeff over the years and from numerous public comments. And I shouldn't have to point out that the EZ-Rocket is a technology demonstrator and that the Rocket Racer is being built under contract. Yes, Xerus/Lynx has been discussed vague terms over the years - but as either a demonstrator or something they'd be willing to build with someone else footing the bill like the Racer. *Not* as a production item being built on spec.

Re:Missed the big one. (1)

evanbd (210358) | about 6 years ago | (#22890330)

Lynx has been in the works in a real sense for some time now. The Rocket Racer is the sort of contract work XCOR *likes*. I believe, but can't say for sure, that Lynx has been part of the business plan since nearly the start of the company, in some form or other. And yes, the EZ-Rocket is a technology demonstrator; however, the demonstration was basically intended to be "XCOR can build multi-engine rocket vehicles," not just a piece of eye candy to attract attention to the engines. There's a large quantity of work involved in taking an engine that runs on the stand and integrating into an airframe; XCOR has worked to develop that expertise, it's not just something they do on occasion if they have to for a contract.

200,000 feet (2, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 6 years ago | (#22886684)

I guess 200,000 feet could be defined as "space." It's certainly suborbital. The X-prize required 80 km though, didn't it? That's about 262,000 feet.

Re:200,000 feet (1)

evanbd (210358) | about 6 years ago | (#22889474)

Space is usually defined as 100km, which is what was used for the X-Prize. 200,000 feet gets you a couple minutes of free fall, black sky, and a curved horizon. For tourist purposes, that's functionally "space", but it doesn't meet the usual definition [wikipedia.org]. It's high enough that you need rockets to get there, and it provides a good ride. My reading of the press releases is that this is a brief stopping point along the way to 110km, which will involve the same airframe shape, but with added lightness and other performance improvements. (Any details I know beyond that, I can't share.)

Re:200,000 feet (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 6 years ago | (#22889678)

The article casts it as a race to be the first commercial venture delivering passengers to space though. It isn't. Nobody has any plans to beat Scaled Composites and Virgin to space. These guys are only planning to be half way there when SC/V launch their service.

"...its clean-burning, two-seat Lynx spacecraft... (1)

rwyoder (759998) | about 6 years ago | (#22886950)

So they are saying it won't litter debris across several Southern states when it burns?

YouW Fail It (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22887660)

The future holdS If *BSD is to
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