March 31, 2008 — A California aerospace company is promising affordable front-seat rides to the stars.
XCOR Aerospace, of Mojave, California, last week unveiled its new self-contained, suborbital spaceship that will launch XCOR into the emerging space tourism market, estimated at over a half-billion dollars.
Lynx, the two-seat spaceship, will carry a pilot and a passenger to suborbital space so they can experience weightlessness and see one breath-taking view of the planet Earth. It is slated to begin service in 2010, flying up to four times each day.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the rides will sell for about $100,000 each. Each flight will reach an altitude of 200,000 feet, allowing passengers to experience about 90 seconds of weightlessness.
Unlike Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo project, also slated to enter service in 2010, the smaller Lynx will not rely on a separate launch vehicle to ascend skyward. Instead, it will take off like a conventional aircraft, albeit rocket-powered, then climb skyward. Following weightlessness, Lynx will glide down to Earth, and land in a similar manner to NASA's space shuttle.
"We have designed this vehicle to operate much like a commercial aircraft,” said XCOR CEO Jeff Greason. “Its liquid fuel engines will provide the enhanced safety, durability, reliability and maintainability that keep operating costs low.
"These engines will also minimize the impact of these flights on the environment," Greason added. "They are fully reusable, burn cleanly, and release fewer particulates than solid fuel or hybrid rocket motors."
Greason said future versions of Lynx will include ever-improving capabilities for scientific and engineering research and commercial applications.
"Lynx will be the 'Greatest Ride Off Earth,'" said XCOR test pilot, former pilot astronaut and Space Shuttle commander, Col. Rick Searfoss. "The acceleration, the weightlessness, and the view will provide you with an experience that is out of this world. And the best part of it all is that you'll ride right up front, like a co-pilot, instead of in back, like cargo."
The Lynx should provide one amazing view of the Earth.
Photo illustration by XCOR Aerospace.
Lynx flight profile. Illustration: XCOR Aerospace
People stand next to the Lynx to put the vehicle in scale. Illustration: XCOR Aerospace
To view an animation
Click here to see the Lynx animation on YouTube.