Wednesday, February 13, 2008

More Potential Space Tourism Companies

Okay, okay, I missed a few, I admit it! There are just so (surprisingly) many space tourism companies out there, it's hard not to miss a few. If you want to read my original list, it's here, but here's details on a few more companies that might have a future interest in sending you to space!

LiftPort Group
The LiftPort group is a corporation that is affiliated with several companies with the common interest in building a space elevator. That's right, folks, a space elevator! They plan on developing the technology required to suspend a satellite in orbit and tether it to a platform floating in the South Pacific with a couple of ribbons made from carbon nanotubes thousands of miles long. These ribbons will support lifters (powered by ground-based lasers) that will be able to carry loads into orbit and back. Quite an endeavor! However, they have most of the physics worked out, and it seems quite feasible. So far, they have successfully suspended a tethered platform a mile up (via propellants) and had prototype lifters climb up and down the tether. They plan to have their first full-scale lift launch on October 27, 3031. Tickets are available now! (However, each ticket is only good to have one ounce lifted into orbit.)
Proposed orbital lifts: $25 per ounce

Armadillo Aerospace
Armadillo Aerospace was founded in the year 2000, and has a stated goal of sub-orbital space tourism, and log-term goals of orbital manned space flight. Their organization is relatively small, but they have had some success in the design and construction of proof-of-concept space vehicle components. They were a competitor in the original Ansari X-Prize, and they compete today in the X-Prize Cup. Armadillo's creations rely on computer-controlled stabilization systems instead of being aerodynamic, and can therefore be quite unique in design. In 2004, they demonstrated the third unmanned vehicle in history capable of vertical takeoff and landing. They are currently researching solutions for lunar-lander and orbital launch vehicles. And they have a really cool little mascot named Widget.

ARCA (Aeronautics and Cosmonautics Romanian Association) is an organization financed by a group of European companies. Like Armadillo Aerospace, they were one of the participants in the original Ansari X-Prize competition, and they are competitors today in the X-Prize cup. Like Scaled Composites, they specialize partly in composite materials, and in fact built and launched the first rocket constructed of composite materials. They have a couple of manned space-related projects in the works, and while I haven't seen any officially announced plans for them to venture into space tourism, it remains a possibility.

Rocketplane Global
Rocketplane Global was founded in Oklahoma in 2001. The company's sole purpose is the development of commercial space travel. They are currently developing the XP, a spacecraft that looks strikingly like a business jet; the main difference is the giant rocket built into the back. It will carry a pilot and five passengers, and unlike SpaceShipTwo, it will be capable of powered flight after re-entry. The vehicle's design was announced late last year, along with a rough timeline of flight tests in 2009 and initial tourist flights in 2010.
Proposed sub-orbital flights: $250,000

XCOR Aerospace
XCOR designs rockets and vehicles for space agencies all over the world. Among their current projects is a design for a methane rocket engine to be installed on the lunar return vehicle that will be used by NASA when they return to the moon. More to the point, though, they are developing the Xerus, a low-budget sub-orbital space plane that will carry one pilot and one passenger to the edge of space and back. They intend this vehicle to be used for space tourism.

And well, those are all of the potential space tourism companies I am aware of. Those, along with my original list of nine, bring the number up to no less than fourteen companies actively developing systems that could enable tourists to take to space! Imagine, if even two or three of these companies succeed in their efforts, we could have all sorts of options for different forms of spaceflight, and a lot of competition four our space tourism dollars. These are exciting times indeed!

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