Saturday, February 9, 2008

Space Tourism Companies

I mentioned in my first post that there are no less than five companies seriously working toward sending rich people (and perhaps an average joe) into space. I'll now back that up by giving a run-down and brief description of each of these companies, in order of how far along they are in their plans to send people to space.

Space Adventures Ltd
Everybody has heard of this one, but almost nobody knows its name. This is the company that currently partners with the Russian government to send people for week-long stays at the International Space Station. As of the beginning of 2007, this is the only Space Tourism company actively getting people into space. They also have plans to construct their own sub-orbital spacecraft, and long-term plans to send people to the moon.
One week on the ISS: $30,000,000
Proposed sub-orbital flights: $102,000
Proposed trips to the moon: $100,000,000

Virgin Galactic
This company is partnering with Scaled Composites in the construction of SpaceShipTwo. SpaceShipTwo is currently under construction, and will begin flight testing this summer. Sub-orbital tourist flights are expected to begin in 2009. They are also planning ahead for orbital flights and beyond, but no specific details have been announced.
Proposed sub-orbital flights: $200,000

SpaceX is currently constructing a prototype of Dragon, a Soyuz-like vehicle capable of taking 7 people into orbit. Dragon will first be tested in flight this year. Though SpaceX is primarily geared toward providing spaceflight services to governments, and have no announced plans for space tourism, I mention them here anyway because of:

Bigelow Aerospace
Bigelow Aerospace is more focused on creating structures in space than on getting people there. However, space hotels intended for tourists are among their future plans. Their structures are based on a unique inflatable design, and they have two prototypes in orbit right now. It has been suggested that SpaceX's Dragon capsules could be used to transport people to the proposed space hotels, but no specific plans have been announced.

EADS Astrium
This company actively develops systems that are being used in space, including the Colombus capsule that was launched yesterday aboard Atlantis toward the International Space Station. It is currently developing an aircraft somewhat similar to SpaceShipOne in that it is designed to launch six people into space from atmospheric flight. The difference is that SpaceShipOne uses a "mothership" to carry it up to launch altitude, while Astrium's craft is designed to be capable of both powered atmospheric and sub-orbital flight without the need of a mothership.

Blue Origin
Blue Origin is currently designing a unique sub-orbital craft capable of vertical takeoff and landing, with the intent to use it for space tourism. As of today, they have had one successful test... to 285 feet. This company is fairly hush-hush, so details about their specific plans are scarce.

Benson Space
Benson Space was founded by the founder of SpaceDev, the company that designed the hybrid rocket engine for SpaceShipOne. They plan to use the Dreamcatcher, a craft being designed by SpaceDev, to provide sub-orbital flights (and potentially future orbital flights) to tourists. They intend to launch the first sub-orbital tourism craft, and will have to beat Virgin Galactic's expected 2009 launches to do it.
Proposed sub-orbital flights: $200,000-$300,000

Constellation Services International
This company has rather ambitious plans to refurbish and upgrade used Soyuz capsules for orbital space tourism and cargo transport, as well as trips around the moon. Their proposed journey to the moon would include a week-long stay at the International Space Station. Few specific plans have been announced.

Excalibur Almaz
This company has plans to develop space tourism by means of modernized Russian TKS capsules (which have flown successfully unmanned) and plans derived from the Russian Almaz space stations, three of which were launched in the 70s.

So by my count, that's nine companies that will potentially be involved in space tourism! Many more than the five I promised. In future posts, I'll be profiling each of these companies (to the best of my amateurish abilities). So keep reading!

No comments: