XCOR offers $95,000 bargain suborbital flight experience

by Raphael Jaffe
staff writer

Continuing its steady, methodical program aimed at making suborbital space flights more accessible, XCOR Aerospace has teamed with a newly formed adventure travel provider, RocketShip Tours.

The linkage was announced at a Dec. 2 news conference by Jeff Greason, XCOR president and Jules Klar, founder of the new Phoenix, Ariz.,-based wholesaler.

RocketShip Tours will immediately begin selling rides to the edge of space for $95,000 per flight. Participants will fly aboard the Lynx, the two-seat suborbital vehicle being built by XCOR. Already, 22 tickets have been sold.

In an exclusive interview with Aerotech News, Dan DeLong, XCOR chief engineer and vice president said, “Lynx is on course, on schedule, and is proceeding more than satisfactorily. We are looking forward to selling lots of tickets, so we can ride the vehicle as well.

“Confidence in flight safety is so high that all personnel who are working on Lynx are looking forward eagerly to their ride,” he said.

XCOR has been working on Lynx and its predecessors for several years. Hardware is being built now, and completion of the first craft is scheduled for 2010.  Then a vigorous flight test program will begin. Indicative of XCOR’s philosophy of safety, the flight test program “lasts as long as it lasts.”  

Lynx aerodynamic design is essentially completed and verified. The craft uses four independent rocket engines, each rated at 2,500 pounds thrust. They burn liquid oxygen and kerosene. The nozzles are regeneratively cooled, and fed by piston pumps. One of these pumps has been operated without maintenance for about five hours run time.  

The craft reaches Mach 2 on its 75 degree climb, and Mach 2.5 during decent.  The g force is 2.5 going up, and 4 g on the way down. The prototype will attain 62 kilometers (200,000 feet) altitude. Subsequent models will go higher.

XCOR Chief Test Pilot and three-time Space Shuttle Pilot and Commander, Rick Searfoss said the Lynx will carry people or payloads to the edges of space up to four times a day. Seated next to him in the co-pilot seat, adventurers will undoubtedly experience the thrill of a lifetime. The awe-inspiring view of the curvature of Earth, the thin blue mantle of the atmosphere below, and inky blackness of space above will provide participants with unforgettable memories beyond description. Ticket No. 1 is held by Per Wimmer, a London based investment banker.

Wimmer is a global financier, an entrepreneur, an adventurer, a pioneer and a philanthropist – or, as a commentator has argued, a true “Indiana Jones meets 007 James Bond.” Wimmer thrives on adventure.

He did a tandem sky dive to the top of Mount Everest, and has visited 50 countries. Also, his charity promotes space awareness for children. Wimmer also has space flight tickets with Virgin Galactic, and Space Adventures.

“I am very proud to announce this partnership with XCOR to offer participants an out of this world experience – a front row seat to the edge of Space,” said Klar. “There is no doubt that a new era of pioneering space enthusiasts is emerging. In fact, prior to signing this agreement with RocketShip Tours, XCOR had already taken paid reservations.”

The total cost of the Lynx flight experience is $95,000. A deposit of $20,000 begins the process of assigning the participant to the qualification program. This qualification program is at a luxury hotel in Paradise Valley, Camelback Mountain, Ariz. Klar said one does not have to be an athlete to fly aboard the Lynx, but the procedure will include a medical questionnaire and a screening performed by qualified physicians. Instruction regarding life support systems, flight physiology, and other aspects of the Lynx suborbital flight will also be provided.

“We want to ensure the experience is as safe as possible and that people are adequately trained and prepared. Since this is a suborbital launch, training will require familiarization with the spacesuit and what will be experienced while sitting in the cockpit.”