The New Space Race is Heating Up

RocketShip Tours to offer a front seat ride to the edge of space.

Arizona-based RocketShip Tours announced Tuesday that it will immediately begin selling rides to the edge of space — for $95,000 per flight, half the price of its main competitor. Space tourists will fly aboard the Lynx, the two-seat suborbital vehicle being built by California-based XCOR Aerospace, which hopes to fly in 2010.

“Years ago, my dream was to introduce the world to new travel opportunities at prices that were consistent with a unique experience,” says Jules Klar, the founder of luxury vacation company Great American Travel. “We’ve helped thousands of sophisticated adventurous travelers visit exotic destinations all over the world…. Today, I am very proud to announce this partnership with XCOR Aerospace to offer participants an out of this world experience — a front row seat to the edge of Space.”

The 28-foot-long aircraft, which will take off and land at a standard runway, will fly to a lesser altitude of 38 miles in a half-hour flight, but the system should only cost around $10 million to develop, and the company believes its proprietary kerosene and liquid-oxygen rocket engines will allow for relatively quick refueling and as many as four flights per day. The two-person craft is smaller than its main competitor’s — Virgin Galactic’s ShapeShipTwo will hold seven. The Lynx also won’t fly as high; SpaceShipTwo (which is expected to begin test flights next year) will reach an altitude of 62 miles, or Low Earth Orbit. But XCOR’s flight will only cost half as much, the customer gets to sit up front, next to a former Space Shuttle commander — and they don’t have a 200-passenger-long waiting list.

A deposit of $20,000 begins the process of assigning the participant to the XCOR qualification program, which will include a medical questionnaire and a screening performed by qualified aeronautic physicians. (Pay close attention that part, because as Daisuke Enomoto and his $21 million lawsuit against competitor Space Adventures can attest, it doesn’t always go so well.) Danish investment banker Per Wimmer will take the first Lynx ride when paid flights begin, possibly as early as 2011.


Davin Coburn